Backs to the wall, Natasha Cloud and Mystics transfer previous Game 1 miscues

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SEATTLE — Natasha Cloud was having the sport that she had spent the whole offseason making ready for Thursday night time. In Game 1 of a best-of-three WNBA first-round playoff collection, the Seattle Storm put its defensive focus squarely on limiting Elena Delle Donne and Ariel Atkins. The strategy meant Cloud, the league’s assists chief, would wish to imagine extra of a scoring duty.

So she did, making jumpers and floaters and attending to the rim with aggressive dribble-drives. She totaled 16 factors on 6-for-10 taking pictures, making each of her three-point makes an attempt. The one knock on her Game 1 efficiency was 4 turnovers, the final of which was an errant cross on a vital possession together with her staff down some extent and fewer than 30 seconds remaining.

The error was pivotal within the Storm’s 86-83 win that put the Mystics one loss from an early finish to their playoff run, and it dominated the postgame dialog. It additionally overshadowed an in any other case sturdy recreation from the Mystics’ flooring normal.

“Obviously, I didn’t shoot how I wanted to during the season, but I just kind of stayed the course and trusted that my work was eventually going to show,” Cloud mentioned. “Just understanding that Seattle was going to make me score the ball and owning that and taking that on.

“I know people want to focus on that one turnover, but it doesn’t come down to the last possession. It comes from an accumulation of things that we watched on film. We gave that game away.”

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Game 2 of the No. 4-vs. No. 5 matchup is about for Sunday.

A day after the loss, Cloud stood at follow and voiced displeasure with a little bit of lack of power in the course of the exercise. Coach Mike Thibault mentioned that the staff was drained and torpid in the course of the early walk-through parts however that issues picked up because the session went on.

Cloud, who averaged a career-best 10.7 factors and seven.0 assists within the common season, willingly embraced the scoring function Thursday. Whereas Delle Donne was a drive, scoring 26 factors, Cloud and Atkins (16 factors) each equipped secondary scoring.

“There was a huge stretch where she just kept us in the game with her scoring,” Delle Donne mentioned. “And I think teams try to dare her to be a scorer, and she certainly can be. So when she’s on the attack and she’s scoring the basketball, it just changes everything.

She’s just such a massive piece for us and continues to bring the energy, her voice, when I’m sure she’s exhausted at times and doesn’t feel like it. She just continues to put her head down and work and do it.”

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The Mystics imagine they let Game 1 slip away. Gamers acknowledged the little issues price them — a missed lengthy rebound right here, a turnover there, not taking part in with sufficient tempo at instances.

“When it’s a loud environment like that and everything else, we have to be more exact,” Thibault mentioned. “I thought defensively we did a pretty good job for what we were trying to do. I thought we bailed them out a little bit.”

For Game 2, anticipate Cloud once more to be on the heart of the whole lot the Mystics do offensively. The Mystics imagine the Storm will proceed to place a lot of their defensive give attention to Delle Donne and Atkins, leaving alternatives for Cloud, a pass-first level guard, to attain. However that’s what an offseason spent working together with her coach, James Clark, and taking part in with Athletes Limitless was all about: being extra versatile and punishing opponents for not respecting her shot. Game 1 was the second she had been coaching for.

“I know that this is in me,” Cloud mentioned. “But my goal isn’t to score 26 points like Elena. My goal was to be 10, 10 and 10. I have the ability to do that.

“Those minor mistakes, we can make adjustments and we can be that 1 percent better going into Sunday. So coming in here, the goal is the same — we’re going to win the game. To have that confidence, that swagger about us that we are going to take this [expletive] back home to D.C. That’s what I want to exude. I want to exude confidence.

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