Washington playing stellar defense during winning streak

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              FILE - In this June 11, 2019, file photo, Washington Mystics forward Elena Delle Donne pulls down a rebound next to Connecticut Sun guard Layshia Clarendon during a WNBA basketball game in Uncasville, Conn. Thibault’s squad has been using a stellar defensive effort to win five in a row and now sit atop The Associated Press WNBA power poll. The Mystics are second in the league allowing just 73.2 points a game. 
 (Sean D. Elliot/The Day via AP, File)
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NEW YORK (AP) — The Washington Mystics have gotten downright defensive.

The Mystic’s stellar defensive effort has helped coach Mike Thibault’s squad win five in a row which has landed Washington atop The Associated Press WNBA power poll Tuesday. The Mystics are second in the league in points allowed, giving up just 73.2 a game.

“It’s held its own for five straight games now, and that’s why we have five wins,” Thibault said. “We’re holding teams in the 30-something percent (shooting) range . Our team has committed themselves to the defensive end of the floor.”

The winning streak has come against some of the best teams in the league. Washington completed a 4-0 road trip with routs of Los Angeles and Las Vegas. The Mystics then returned home and handed Connecticut — which had beaten Washington twice already this year— one of the worst losses in WNBA history: a 102-59 thumping.

“We frustrated them with our defense today. That’s been the goal for the last two weeks,” Thibault said after the win.

Washington now heads back west to face Los Angeles and Las Vegas again.

POWER POLL

A look at this week’s WNBA poll:

1. Washington (9-3): It’s not just defense that has propelled the Mystics to the top of the standings. They also average a league-best 86.8 points a game.

2. Connecticut (9-4): The Sun limp home after going winless on a three-game road trip. Connecticut also lost backup point guard Layshia Clarendon for a few months after injuring her right ankle in practice.

3. Seattle (8-6): It seems almost every day another Storm player gets injured, yet Seattle keeps finding ways to win and stay competitive. Jewell Loyd was the latest to get hurt, injuring her ankle while going for a layup. Fortunately it was only a sprain and she’ll be back in a few weeks.

4. Las Vegas (7-5): A’ja Wilson had career-high 39 points in an overtime win against Indiana; the Aces have started to come together offensively.

5. Los Angeles (6-6): The Sparks have won consecutive games and Candace Parker is playing more like her old self as she gets back into game-shape. Parker missed the start of season with hamstring injury.

6. Phoenix (5-5): Diana Taurasi has been practicing and could be ready to go in the Mercury’s game against New York on Friday.

7. Minnesota (6-6): The Lynx lost Karima Christmas-Kelly to a season-ending knee injury. Stephanie Talbot replaced her in the starting lineup and has done a nice job.

8. Chicago (6-6): It’s been a disappointing road trip so far for the Sky, who have dropped three straight away from home.

9. New York (5-7): There is optimism around the Liberty after consecutive wins. Road games at Seattle and Phoenix will be a good barometer for just how much New York has really improved.

10. Dallas (4-7): Wings doubled their win total on the season with victories over Connecticut and Minnesota. Dallas was one point short of topping New York to have a three-game winning streak.

11. Indiana (5-9): After seemingly flying all over the country the past week the Fever were happy to have a couple days off to rest. The Fever had 22 hours of travel just getting back from Seattle last week. The team had two overnight flights into Phoenix and Las Vegas after playing Minnesota at home. The Fever will try to end a four-game skid when they visit Dallas on Friday.

12. Atlanta (2-8): It just hasn’t come together this season for Atlanta. The good news is the Dream are only three games out of a playoff spot despite losing eight of their first 10 games.