WNBA

Mystics-Sun Preview

The Washington Mystics looked like a more potent unit in the preseason, but the true test of improvement will be how far they go this year after back-to-back early exits from the playoffs.

They'll open the season by visiting the injury ravaged Connecticut Sun on Friday night.

Washington went 16-18 in 2014, finishing third in the East before being swept out of the first round by Indiana. The Mystics have only advanced past the opening round once, in 2002.

They went 2-1 this preseason, defeating Atlanta and Minnesota - two of the league's top three teams last season - by a combined 50 points. Washington averaged 80.7 points in its three games, up from 74.3 last season.

Tayler Hill and Emma Meesseman led the team with 11.7 and 11.3 points per game, with Meesseman shooting 76.2 percent. She averaged 10.1 points and 52.0 percent last year.

Improved offense could make the Mystics a force to be reckoned with considering they led the WNBA with 73.8 points allowed per game in 2014.

"I think it's exciting to see how much we've progressed since last year," said coach Mike Thibault, who led the Sun from 2003-12. "It's nice that we had a starting point to build on, being a playoff team two years in a row - now, we have another step to take."

The Sun finished last in the East with a 13-21 record in 2014, missing the playoffs for the fourth time in six years, but improved after winning a franchise-worst 10 games in 2013. They won six in a row from June 7-25.

"Even though we aren't in the playoffs, you see the potential of this team and the potential is great," Rookie of the Year Chiney Ogwumike said at the end of the season.

Connecticut finished the year on a particularly strong note with an 84-55 win over first-place Atlanta.

"I think we're young," coach Anne Donovan said. "We're learning. We are playing together. We're unselfish, and we are only going to go up from here."

However, Donovan will have to work with a short-handed roster to start the year. Ogwumike is out indefinitely after undergoing knee surgery and Allison Hightower is also sidelined after a knee operation.

The Sun are also without the retired Katie Douglas, second on the team with 13.2 points per game last season.

Connecticut went 2-1 in the preseason with Alex Bentley averaging a league-high 16.0 points. She scored 17.7 per game over her final three last year.

The Sun dropped four of five meetings with the Mystics in 2014. Meesseman scored a career-high 22 points in a 69-63 home victory over Connecticut on June 27.

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