- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 18, 2018

The WNBA All-Star break is approaching, but until then, the regular season heat is just getting turned up.

With 12 games left before the playoff field is set, the Washington Mystics play at the Dallas Wings Thursday at 8 p.m., a nationally televised game on ESPN2. Both sides are 13-9, in a cluster of teams jockeying for position.

It’s been a busy July for the Mystics, particularly Elena Delle Donne. The star forward was named a team captain for the All-Star Game on July 28, and became the fastest to reach 3,000 career points in WNBA history when she hit the milestone last Saturday.

The Wings are led by All-Star center Liz Cambage, who broke the league’s single-game scoring record Tuesday with a 53-point performance.

Thursday night’s game is one both teams want badly.

“Every game is so important this season, especially this last stretch that we’re going through,” Delle Donne said. “You really have to learn on the fly and try to get better in each game and figure it out as quickly as possible … We can’t have any lag time. We’ve got to be ready to go.”

Just a few weeks past the midpoint of the season, here is how the Mystics’ performance grades out.

Offense: A

Washington is fourth in the WNBA in points per game (84.5), first in free throw percentage (84.9) and second in 3-point shooting percentage (36.0). In short, the Mystics can score at will.

They’re also dominating on the offensive glass, grabbing 9.4 offensive rebounds per contest, which keeps possessions alive those rare times the first shot isn’t made.

Defense: B-

The Mystics do force their opponents into 14.6 turnovers per game, but they allow the third-highest opposing shooting percentage in the league (45.4). And their work on the boards doesn’t translate to defense — they’re dead last in defensive rebounding (23.3).

In the clutch: B

The Mystics are 5-8 against projected playoff teams and 8-1 against the worst four teams in the league. They will have more opportunities to prove their mettle against other top teams in the weeks to come, with road games at Dallas, Atlanta and Phoenix and a home game against the league-leading Seattle Storm.

On the flip side, the Mystics are tough to battle in the fourth quarter. They’re 8-4 in games decided by single-digit margins.

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