While the Phoenix Mercury are trying to snap out of a two-game losing skid behind veterans Brittney Griner and Diana Taurasi, the Washington Mystics are off to a hot start thanks to contributions from two rookies — forward Myisha Hines-Allen and guard Ariel Atkins.
Phoenix (2-2) will host Washington on Wednesday night. The Mystics (4-1) suffered their first loss of the season, starting their West Coast swing with an 81-77 setback Tuesday night at Seattle. Elena Delle Donne, who did not play Tuesday because of illness, paces Washington with 16.5 points per game.
The Mercury started the season with two wins over Dallas and Seattle, but the Storm then beat the Mercury in Phoenix before Taurasi, Griner and Co. came up short on the road against the Los Angeles Sparks on Sunday.
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Griner struggled in the losses to Seattle and Los Angeles tallying only four rebounds in each game.
“Whatever my team wants me to do, I just try to do it,” Griner said. “I felt like my offense wasn’t too good (13-of-25 from the field in the losses) so I have to do something. I can always rely on defense.”
Hines-Allen, a 21-year-old second-round draft pick out of Louisville, had a double-double (15 points and 13 rebounds) when the Mystics defeated the defending WNBA champion Minnesota Lynx 90-78 on Sunday before they traveled west. She had another against Seattle (10 points and 11 rebounds).
They are the first two double-doubles in the WNBA for the 6-foot-2, 200-pound forward, after she tallied an ACC-record 45 in her four years at Louisville. She achieved the first double-double against reigning league MVP Sylvia Fowles of the Lynx, leading the Mystics to a 4-0 start for the first time in franchise history.
“Yeah,” Hines-Allen said when asked about the challenge of going against Fowles. “This was a great game to come out and do it in.”
Washington has also received meaningful contributions from Atkins, who hit four 3-pointers against the Lynx in the win Sunday. She tallied 18 points against Seattle.
“One of the great things about Myisha and Ariel is they’re not afraid of anything,” Washington coach Mike Thibault said. “That’s one of the reasons why we took them is they’re not afraid of big moments — they kind of relish it — and they believe that they belong out there.”
“We’re starting to call Myisha ‘Draymond Green.’ She wants to handle the ball, she wants to shoot jumpers — but she’s so physical and she has great fundamental technique.”