On the eve of an attempt to finish a championship run that fell short in the final stage last season, the Washington Mystics know this year’s playoffs will be different — largely because of their new, intimate home court arena in southeast D.C.
The players admitted the red-clad crowd gets them pumped when it simultaneously yells, claps and “swooshes” as opposing teams enter the Entertainment and Sports Arena in the District.
“I think the fans know what’s at stake here,” Mystics guard Aerial Powers said after practice Monday. “I think they are all into it. Our last regular-season game was lit in here, so it’s playoffs. We’re all excited, including the fans.”
On Tuesday, the Mystics host the Las Vegas Aces in the WNBA semifinals (8:30 p.m. on ESPN2) — a matchup almost didn’t happen. Aces forward Dearica Hamby hit an improbable go-ahead 3-pointer from near mid-court in the waning seconds of Las Vegas’ 93-92 win over the Chicago Sky in Sunday’s second-round elimination game, setting up the showdown with the Mystics.
“It’s amazing that she made that shot,” Powers said. “I was kind of getting my head right for Chicago and then that happened.”
Washington beat Las Vegas in the head-to-head regular-season series 2-1, with both victories by double-digits, including a 99-70 road win on Aug. 5.
Washington’s prolific offense of 89 points per game will clash against one of the league’s stingiest defense in Vegas, which surrendered about 77 points per contest.
The Aces are one of the league’s biggest teams with four players 6’4″ or taller, including center Liz Cambage at 6-foot-8. Las Vegas led the league with nearly six blocks per game and a defensive rating of 95.
Washington enters the playoffs with the league’s best record (26-8) and longest winning streak, closing out the regular season with six straight victories. Since July 19, the Mystics has won 17 of 19 games.
“I know that we can really do it this year more than last year,” said Mystics forward Emma Meesseman, who missed last year’s playoff run while playing in Europe. “If we keep playing the way we’ve been playing, [a championship] can happen. I’m excited to see how we’re going to play, especially with this home court.”