The Mystics broke in their new arena, Saturday night, and they had the city on fire! After connecting the community with a few awesome events this week, the ladies got down to business in their new digs, and they did not disappoint. The Atlantic came into town on Thursday and hosted a symposium surrounding “Athletes and Activism”, in which several former and current members of the franchise, took part in. Natasha Cloud, Kristi Toliver, Chamique Holdsclaw, and Ted Leonsis, all offered their thoughts on the social responsibility of athletes, and how they using their platform is a valuable tool to evoke change, on a global scale. Leading up to the game, the team hosted a block party with live music, food, and displays from local artists. Fans celebrated and interacted with the team, while you could hear a live go-go band ring the signature sounds of the city into the air, that have defined it for decades, from blocks away. The Mystics have surely woven themselves into the fiber of the city, as they were embraced by the town and its’ elated residents.
When the ball was tossed up, all the amicable display went out the window, as the Mystics jumped on Atlanta from the opening tip. The nearly sold-out crowd was insanely electric, and the Mystics were fueled up, off that energy. As a team, they shot 57% from the field. Elena Della Donne started the game going 7-7 in the first half, in her first game back from a knee injury, which caused her to miss the season opener in Connecticut. With Bradley Beal sitting courtside, Ariel Atkins put on an impressive shooting display, hitting 4 threes, and finishing with a game-high of 21 points. The second-year guard is looking to build on a great rookie season and seems as if she is ready to be a true force in the league. It was a surgical performance, and the Mystics did not let up in the wire to wire victory, to ultimately christen the new arena.
The hometown fans showed up for the home team and got them amped up. They were such a lively audience, Coach Mike Thibault stated in the post-game presser, that he was worried that the visiting Dream would feed off that energy after playing in a more sedated atmosphere the night before. Yet, our ladies were charged up. Coach Thibault wanted to push the pace, wear them down and take their legs from them. Needless to say, they were successful. I had a chance to talk with Natasha Cloud after the game and asked her if she felt the Mystics went from being the hunters to being hunted, and she said that the team definitely has a target on their backs. Yet, they aren’t shying away from it whatsoever. If anything, they are providing teams with a paintbrush, for them to draw it on their jerseys, as large as possible. Their moniker this year is “Run it back” which represents their sights being set on the Finals, and nothing short of that. Elena Della Donne shared Cloud’s sentiments, as she expressed how the team had a sour taste in their mouths from losing the championship last year, and are all looking forward to having an opportunity for redemption. EDD also spoke about the team’s depth, and how that will be crucial to their success this season. She and Emma Meeseman tortured Atlanta’s bigs. They got them into space, stretched the floor, and went to work on the low block. After Della Donne got off to a quick start out the gate, Emma went to work in the second half. Elena warned that they are going to be a matchup nightmare for other teams, due to their versatility and well-rounded skill sets.
It was a great performance in their home opener, and as the fans welcomed them back this season, with open arms. The Mystics failed to finish with a win, in their season opener at Connecticut, after being shorthanded so it was important to set the momentum high, at home. They will be back in action, on Wednesday, when they take on the Chicago Sky, as I am sure they are not planning on being very hospitable to them either.