Something had to give for the winless Washington Mystics heading into Tuesday’s contest against the Dream.

Unfortunately for Atlanta, the Mystics finally found the bucket.

Washington jumped out to a 25-15 first-quarter lead and never looked back as the Mystics hit a season-high 17 3-pointers en route to their first win of the year – an 87-68 thumping of Atlanta at Gateway Center Arena.

The Mystics (1-12) were 54.8% (17 of 31) from long range and Washington’s previous high for 3-pointers in a game this season was 13. Atlanta (5-5) has lost three of its last four games.

“I’ll take this one,” Dream coach Tanisha Wright said. “I don’t think I did a good job preparing them for what they were going to see tonight. Washington was a good team. They’re a team that did nothing different than how they normally play other than make shots tonight.”

Atlanta Dream head coach Tanisha Wright shouts instructions during the second half at the Gateway Center Arena on June 11, 2024, in Atlanta. Washington Mystics won 87-68 over Atlanta Dream. (Hyosub Shin / AJC)


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Only three of Washington’s 12 losses were double-digit setbacks and the Mystics have lost four games by five points or less.

“It was just a matter of time that they were going to start making shots,” Wright said. “They play basketball the right way. They move the ball, they share the ball, they keep their spacing. Defensively they talk; they communicate. That’s a good team. Their record doesn’t indicate who they actually are.”

In her first game back since May 17 (ankle sprain), Washington’s Brittney Sykes hit four of her six 3-point attempts and was 7 of 12 overall to tie Ariel Atkins with a game-high 18 points. Sykes also had three rebounds and four assists.

“She makes a difference [with] her speed, her quickness, her ability to push the ball in transition; create easier opportunities,” Wright said. “I already think they do a great job of getting easy opportunities for themselves. Having somebody with her ability to push the ball and break down your defense makes it that much easier.”

Washington set the tone early, making seven of its 11 first-quarter 3-pointers to take a 10-point lead after one period. The Mystics led by as many as 23. Eight Mystics made at least one 3-pointer.

“If you go down the list, [Karlie] Samuelson is a shooter,” Wright said. “Stefanie Dolson is a shooter. Ariel Atkins is a shooter. Sykes shot the ball extremely well. [Julie] Vanloo is a shooter. Myisha Hines-Allen is a shooter. [Shatori] Walker-Kimbrough is a shooter. They have a bunch of shooters.”

In the Dream’s 73-67 win in Washington on May 29, Atlanta held the Mystics to 6 of 27 3-point shooting.

“I’m sure when we played them there, they only made six but I’m sure they took [the same amount of shots],” Wright said. “The difference is they made them tonight. We weren’t as disruptive as we needed to be on the defensive end. We didn’t force tougher shots where we can be in the play with them.”

Despite winning by 19, the Mystics (31 of 65) made just seven more shots than the Dream (24 of 68). Atlanta was just 34.8% (8 of 23) from long range.

“I think our shots were a lot harder in terms of getting to our spots and getting the open looks like we usually get,” said Rhyne Howard, who scored 12 points for the Dream. “[Washington] is a good team. They’re really disciplined on the defensive end so they make it tough for whoever they play. We just didn’t play together like we have in the past.”

Atlanta has allowed 20 or more first-quarter points in six of its 10 games and the Dream allows an average of 21 points in the opening period. The Dream has been outscored 210-193 in the opening period this season.

“I’m not sure why we’re not executing the way we need to execute,” Wright said. “It’s not like it’s for a lack of work. We’re practicing it. We’re showing it. We show them the sets. We show them the way we need to execute. We’re just not doing a great job of that. That’s on me because it’s clearly not getting across. We had a span where, defensively, we looked pretty good, but it has to be consistent.”

It’s the fourth time this season the Dream has followed a win with a loss. Atlanta has a quick turnaround as the Dream will travel to Indiana for a contest against the Fever on Thursday.

“It’s not short-term memory because this is a problem that’s plaguing us,” Wright said. “We can’t have short-term memory. We have to look at it and see it and try to fix it because it’s a problem in terms of being inconsistent.”