Mystics drop second straight to Sky

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CHICAGO — Myisha Hines-Allen scurried around the court at Wintrust Arena on Sunday morning, staging a makeshift photo shoot. The Washington Mystics forward was behind the camera as she implored teammates and staff members to strike a pose.

This was the energetic and gregarious Hines-Allen everyone is used to. This season has been a struggle for her, but she has stayed positive, and Sunday was a good day — at least individually.

The Mystics lost their second in a row — and their third in four games — in a 91-82 defeat to the Chicago Sky, but Hines-Allen was a bright spot. She returned to the starting lineup after coming off the bench in four of the previous five games to notch 13 points, three rebounds, two assists and two steals.

“She’s got to shoot the ball with confidence and not be as easily discouraged if she misses one early or something like that,” associate coach Eric Thibault said. “I liked it in the last couple of games; she shot the ball a little quicker, looking for her own. But [she has] just got to get out of her own head and play a little bit more.”

With Elena Delle Donne sidelined, Hines-Allen rejoined the starting five. There was no hesitation even after she opened the game 1 for 4 from the field. She credited her teammates for insisting that she shoot her way out of her slump.

“I just kept shooting the ball, and it’s something I have to continue to do,” Hines-Allen said. “I’ve put in the work already. So it’s like [I need to] trust my work.”

The 26-year-old acknowledged that the early part of this season hasn’t been easy. Hines-Allen knows she’s better than how she has played, and she wouldn’t be the first pro athlete to feel more pressure to perform after signing a new contract. The Mystics gave her a three-year deal averaging $175,000 in the offseason.

“I am a confident person, but for any competitor, anybody, it’s just like when you know you’re capable of doing something and you’re not living up to what you know you can do — it sucks,” Hines-Allen said. “And now you’re in your head, and then that translates to not playing defense.

“So I feel like, for me, I’m going to keep shooting the ball, but it’s also setting good screens for my teammates to get open. I can do more than just shoot the ball, put the ball in the basket. I can facilitate. I can rebound. I can defend multiple positions. So, for me, it’s not even just focusing on the offensive side.”

The defensive side failed the Mystics (7-5) in the third quarter Sunday as they gave up 31 points and let the Sky (7-3) pull away. Washington had several execution breakdowns and turnovers at crucial moments coming out of timeouts when Thibault — who again filled in for his father, Mike, who remains in the WNBA’s health and safety coronavirus protocols — had a chance to draw up a play.

Kahleah Copper, the 2021 WNBA Finals MVP, finished with 15 points for the defending champs, and Candace Parker had another all-around gem with 12 points, 13 rebounds and six assists. Former Mystics star Emma Meesseman added 13 points and six assists.

“We talked at half about raising our intensity a notch,” Thibault said. “It felt like kind of a sleepy first half for both teams a little bit, but instead they hit us with a run. We were sloppy. We talked about stuff we wanted to execute coming out of half, and we were just really sloppy, throwing it into their hands and stuff like that. We’re going have to figure out a way to play both ends of the court at the same time.”

Here’s what else to know about the Mystics’ loss:

Delle Donne was scheduled to play Sunday, but the Mystics held her out after Friday’s loss to New York. The two-time MVP has been on a load-management program as she returns from a pair of back surgeries. This was not a setback; the team merely decided to play it safe with just one day off between games and the travel to Chicago.

Tianna Hawkins had been the odd woman out of the rotation recently; she didn’t play a minute in the Mystics’ previous two games. Before that, she scored 10 points in 15 minutes of a loss at Connecticut on May 28.

Hawkins came off the bench midway through the first quarter Sunday and was aggressive. She finished with a game-high 21 points on 8-for-13 shooting.

“I take pride in staying ready,” she said. “The biggest thing is preparation — whether I’m paying 20 minutes, 10 minutes, zero minutes. I’m always getting extra shots and making sure my conditioning is up so, when my name is called, it’s not a surprise.”

Alysha Clark (seven points in 17 minutes) returned after missing three games following a positive coronavirus test. She was in the WNBA’s protocols for two games and missed another while working back into game shape.

Clark acknowledged the timing was particularly bad — she was just getting back into a groove after a delayed start to the season while recovering from a foot injury that kept her out last season.

“I knew this summer … that this was going to be an up-and-down season,” she said. “… So I was prepared. I knew there were going to be obstacles throughout the season. I was annoyed in the beginning — just like, the timing is terrible. I finally felt like I was moving a little bit [better]. [I kept] that perspective mind-set of it, of just being, ‘All right, this is one of the downs that you’re going to have in this up-and-down season.’ ”

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