INDIANAPOLIS (AP)—Coach Mike Thibault helped get the Washington Mystics back into the playoffs.
The Mystics clinched a spot in the playoffs for the first time since 2010 with a 69-67 victory over the Indiana Fever on Tuesday.
Getting the win wasn’t easy.
Neither has turning around a team which lost the final 13 games last season and the final 13 of 14 games the year before.
“I feel like this is similar to my first year in Connecticut,” Thibault said.
He took over a team that was around .500 for most of its existence in Orlando before moving to Connecticut.
“They had never won a playoff series and didn’t know what it was like,” Thibault said. “It’s just a matter of changing habits, getting winning habits and those kinds of things.”
And three players that led the Mystics past the Fever and to a playoff berth joined Washington in the offseason.
Kia Vaughn, acquired in February, had 15 points and six rebounds to lead the Mystics (15-17). Ivory Latta signed with Washington in the offseason and had 15 points and four assists, and Tayler Hill, the fourth overall pick in this year’s draft, added 12 points.
“We all came together for one goal, to get to the playoffs,” Latta said. “That goal came true, but we’re not going to stop there. We want to compete in the first round and get to the second round. We’re not going to get complacent with where we’re at.”
The Mystics went on an 8-2 run in the second half. Michelle Snow scored a basket and Hill hit two 3-pointers to give Washington a 60-55 lead with 7:11 left. The Mystics held on the rest of the way.
But Indiana didn’t let up.
Tamika Catchings, who had 13 points, made a layup with eight seconds left to get within a point, 66-65. Hill was fouled and made both free throws.
Zellous scored with 1.2 seconds remaining to get within a point and Hill made one of two from the line with under a second left.
Indiana turned the ball over just before time expired.
The Fever earned their ninth straight playoff berth on Saturday with a win over Connecticut. But Indiana still wants to end the regular season with momentum to carry to the playoffs.
“We want to go into the playoffs on top of our game and finally coming together and playing our best,” Catchings said. “We didn’t come out as focused as we should have. That’s a disappointing thing as a team.”