The top 5 rivalries for the Washington Mystics in 2021

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Tyler Byrum
·5 min read
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The top 5 rivalries for the Mystics in 2021 originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

Making back-to-back WNBA Finals in 2018 and 2019 put quite the target on the Washington Mystics backs. Teams across the league not only want to beat Washington, but they also want to be just like them. 

Throughout the team's history and over the past two or three seasons, there has been quite a handful of teams that one could consider a 'rival' of the Mystics. As several Washington players are set to make their return from missing the 2020 season, many of those rivalry series will be reignited. 

Two-time WNBA MVP Elena Delle Donne is going to be back, along with Natasha Cloud. Additionally, new addition from last offseason, 2012 MVP Tina Charles, is also set to play her first games in D.C.

Once again the Mystics are billed to be must-see television throughout the season and are sure to fill up the national timeslots. With the 2021 schedule out, here are some of the top contests to watch throughout the season. 

Seattle Storm (June 22, Aug. 22, Sept. 7)

It's always a show when these two teams square off. Even with Washington missing half of their championship roster in 2020, when they played the Storm they were competitive games with the Mystics winning one of those contests. 

As these two teams lay claim to the past three WNBA championships, they are the class of the league right now. Both met in the 2018 Finals with Seattle coming out on top and in the following seasons have split the two championships. Seattle may have some roster turnover kinks to work out and remain championship contenders, but they're still near the top.

That's not even mentioning the fact that Washington acquired one of their key players in Alysha Clark this offseason. One of the best ways to improve is to take away talent from your biggest competition. While Clark is out with a Lisfranc injury, surely the recent history of these two teams will make it a compelling series. 

The pair of teams will meet three times. The Storm will get the extra home contest this season. 

Las Vegas Aces (June 5, Aug. 15 & 17)

Oh man, for those that are not familiar with the feistiness of this rivalry, you've been missing out. In their 2019 WNBA Semifinals matchup, Liz Cambage famously told the Mystics to "get in the weight room or get out of the post." That came after a huge outing for the 6-foot-8 center against a Washington team that prided itself on versatility rather than size. 

Cloud came to the defense of her teammates, especially LaToya Sanders, for covering Cambage and fed into the rivalry. 

Washington would win out the remainder of the series, but the bickering between the two sides continued. Even when every willing party was not playing the bubble last season, Cambage and Cloud still went back-and-forth on social media. 

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A lot has changed for the Mystics since. Sanders has retired and Charles certainly will be able to match the post presence of Cambage. But more importantly, the Aces and Mystics are the likely two favorites to contend for the title this season. On top of the general dislike for each other, they're going to be good. 

Phoenix Mercury (May 18, Aug. 19)

Washington's season came to an end at the hands of the Mercury. Not only that, it was Shey Peddy, who was waived by the Mystics late in the season, who hit the buzzer-beating dagger. Washington was one of the hottest teams entering the playoffs until it was all snatched away. They had aspirations for a deep run to defend their title. 

Peddy is on a training camp contract with Phoenix and may not even make the season-opening roster. But if Peddy does it will be quite the homecoming for the first week of the season. A mix of friendly welcoming and revenge will be on the mind for those in attendance.

Nevertheless, there are still ties between these two teams. Leilani Mitchell was formerly a member of the Mercury before heading to D.C. in free agency last season. Mitchell went off with arguably her best performance with her new team when they squared off in the playoffs.

There's also the forever tied-together loaded 2013 WNBA Draft class. Picks No. 1 and 3 are on Phoenix in Brittney Griner and Skylar Diggins-Smith. Delle Donne, drafted by Chicago at the time, was sandwiched by the two. 

Los Angeles Sparks (June 10 & 24, August 24)

Kristi Toliver and the Mystics have yet to play against each other since the two parted ways in 2020 free agency. Toliver wanted a longer-term contract and Washington wasn't offering that much time to her to return. 

She returned to L.A. where she won her first championship in 2016 but did not play at all last season. It can't be understated how huge Toliver's leadership was to help lead D.C. to their first championship in 2019. It will be quite the emotional scene when Toliver, Delle Donne and Cloud all suit up for the first time on opposite ends.

And then just look at the talent on the Sparks' roster - they're another contender in 2021. 

Minnesota Lynx (June 8, Sept. 4 & 19)

Once again, another case where a member of the 2019 championship team landed in another market. This offseason Aerial Powers took her talents to the resurgent Minnesota Lynx for a significant pay raise. 

Powers was the energizer bunny and heart of the Mystics team. Whenever the team needed a spark, she was there to provide it. 

Along with Powers, Kayla McBride from the Aces rivalry came over to Minnesota. Quite a few familiar faces. 

It would be no surprise if the two teams had massive postseason implications on the line for the regular-season finale.