The Washington Mystics and Seattle Storm played on a see-saw in the first half Wednesday, but the Mystics used a spinning merry-go-round and blew away the reigning WNBA champions 88-59.
Part of it stemmed from a dominating second half with a 50-24 scoring advantage and the Storm recording only eight points in the fourth quarter.
In a possible preview of a WNBA Finals rematch, Washington won the season series 2-1 as Washington Redskins running back Adrian Peterson looked on from the front row behind a basket near the Mystics bench.
The victory also marked Washington’s (18-7) fourth straight win and ninth out of the past 10. Washington also retains the number one spot in the WNBA.
“That bench group … gave us the jolt that we needed,” said Mystics head coach Mike Thibault. “They got the crowd into it. They got their teammates going.”
The bench comprised of Emma Messeeman, Tianna Hawkins and Shatori Walker-Kimbrough scored 35 points, compared to Seattle’s 14.
Hawkins speared a second quarter comeback with 11 points to help Washington erase a 23-16 deficit to being the stanza and tie the game at 30 at the 3:46 mark.
“It feels good because…the last game I was a little short with my shot. To see the shot go in it felt amazing,” said Hawkins, who went 6-for-10 from the floor and converted both her free throws.
The Mystics were a perfect 21-for-21 from the free-throw line and shot 9-of-17, or 53 percent, behind the 3-point stripe.
However, Thibault and the players said defense contributed to Wednesday’s victory.
Seattle (14-12) shot only 35 percent from the floor and 27 percent from beyond the arc. Seattle also had 17 turnovers.
Storm forward Natasha Howard led all scorers with 24 points, but her closest teammate Mercedes Russell chipped in 10 points.
The team also didn’t have the services of perennial All-Star Sue Bird and reigning WNBA MVP Breanna Stewart.
Storm head coach Dan Hughes said he isn’t sure about the return of Bird, who’s out with a knee injury.
“She’s working on in rehab, but she has not been on the court with us,” he said. “She does things on her rehab program, but she’s not practicing with us yet. When she’s ready, she’ll be ready.”
The injury bug has also hit Washington with All-Star guard Kristi Tolliver out with right knee injury.
Aerial Powers, who replaced Toliver in the starting lineup, scored 16 points. All-Star forward Elena Delle Donne added 14 points on a night where the first 2,000 fans received a Delle Donne bobblehead.
Ariel Atkins played Wednesday after a collision in Sunday’s game against the Minnesota Lynx.
Atkins, one of six players in double figures with 11 points, credits depth as one factor in keeping the team sharp.
“I feel like that’s good for us. It creates competition in practice and we get better,” she said. “We got a multitude of people that can start on our team. It’s really fun to play with.”