Mystics take the train to New York, leave their flow in Washington

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NEW YORK — The toll of a packed June schedule finally may have caught up with the Washington Mystics. Despite establishing themselves as one of the best road teams in the WNBA, the Mystics took a train to New York for Thursday night’s game at Barclays Center and failed to find their flow in a 77-65 loss to the Liberty.

New York never trailed in the second half and outscored the visitors 36-22 over the second and third quarters.

Afterward, guard Natasha Cloud summed things up: “My [expletive] feels like trash.”

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That’s the product of playing, essentially, every other day this month, she explained. We play, we travel the way that we travel, which is trash,” Cloud said. “… It’s brutal right now on our body. So there’s going to be nights where offensively there’s going to be shots that are short, there’s going to be shots that are off.”

The Mystics also were playing without two-time MVP Elena Delle Donne, who was on a scheduled rest day.

Things don’t exactly lighten up for the Mystics (10-7), who started a five-game stretch that runs through next week and includes four of five away from home. Washington is 5-3 on the road and will play three games out west after Sunday’s home game against the Sun.

Cloud pointed out their train was delayed going to New York and all that time accounted for their so-called rest day.

Coach Mike Thibault said the goal is to be the best road team in the league, though Washington didn’t look like it in New York.

“The one thing we talked about in preseason was that if you want to be an exceptional team, that you have to be a good road team,” Thibault said.

The Mystics struggled offensively outside of Cloud, who had 17 points, seven assists and five rebounds. They shot just 36.9 percent from the field, 27.6 percent from three-point range and managed just 11 points in both the second and third quarters. Thibault was blunt with his words.

We kind of stunk tonight,” Thibault said. “We had a bunch of people not playing well at all offensively. We weren’t great defensively either. You can’t shoot 37 percent and think you’re going to win very many games on the road. We wasted a really good night by Natasha. … Teams are figuring some stuff out about us and we need to figure out a way to combat it.”

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

The first quarter was basically a layup line for the Liberty (6-9), which seemed to get to the basket at will. All 20 of the Liberty’s points came in the paint, led by Natasha Howard, who finished with 27 points and nine rebounds. Sabrina Ionescu regularly was able to find open cutters and posted nine assists to go with 10 points and seven rebounds. New York finished with 44 points in the paint, rendering its 19.4 percent shooting from beyond the arc (6 for 31) moot.

“Defense you could bring every single day,” said guard Shatori Walker-Kimbrough, who scored eight points off the bench. “Shots not falling, okay. But the defense and effort, you can always bring. Communication you can always bring. I don’t think we had that necessarily, at least not consistently for four quarters today.”

Four players off the bench played at least 16 minutes, and Walker-Kimbrough and Kennedy Burke both played more than 20. Thibault previously said the schedule was wearing players down and that he would look for chances to shorten the starters’ minutes, but he said that wasn’t the case Thursday.

“Part of it was the starters weren’t playing very well,” Thibault said. “So for me, they didn’t deserve to be out there, some of them.”

Delle Donne is scheduled to play Sunday against the Sun. Thibault said the current plan is for her to miss the game in Los Angeles, but to play in Seattle and Las Vegas.

Rui Machida made her first visit to New York as the Japanese star continues to explore the United States. She hit Times Square and took in other sights, saying the Brooklyn Bridge and Battery Park were her two favorites.

Machida, as expected, has had an up-and-down rookie season, and her minutes have dipped a bit since she posted a career-high nine assists in a loss to Chicago on June 5. Thibault has been steadfast in the fact he just wants her to stay aggressive as a shooter.

“So there are a lot of things I need to improve on, specifically scoring,” Machida said through interpreter Micky Takei. “Always being in attack mode. … Make or miss, just shoot as much as possible. And also, when I’m in court, trying to push the ball, keeping the tempo and playing high-paced basketball.”

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