The woes in the District continue.
Washington Mystics head coach Mike Thibault will miss the final two games of the regular season upon entering the WNBA's health and safety protocols, the team announced Wednesday. The Mystics have dealt with significant injuries to former MVPs this season and are currently in control of the eighth and final playoff spot.
Associate head coach Eric Thibault will coach the games at the New York Liberty (Friday) and the home finale against the Minnesota Lynx (Sunday). Thibault, the head coach's son, is in his ninth season with Washington.
Mike Thibault, 70, is fully vaccinated and will return to the team upon clearance from the protocols, the Mystics said. Breakthrough cases have continued to rise with a more transmissible strain of the coronavirus. The risk of infection, hospitalization, and death in those who are vaccinated is lower than those unvaccinated, per the CDC.
Mystics in control of final playoff spot
The Mystics are fighting to keep a hold of the eighth and final playoff spot over the final days of the season. The regular season concludes Sunday and the first round of the playoffs are Sept. 23.
The Mystics (12-18) can clinch the final spot with a win on Friday against the Liberty (11-19), who have faltered late after a stunningly strong start. The win would give the Mystics a two-game lead over the Los Angeles Sparks (11-19), who could tie them but the Mystics hold the tiebreaker. Washington is 2-1 in their three meetings.
The final standings are still fluid below the No. 1 Connecticut Sun (24-6), with No. 2 Las Vegas Aces (22-8) poised to take that spot. The first round is single elimination with the No. 5 seed playing No. 8 and No. 6 vs. No. 7.
As of Wednesday afternoon, that would be Mercury-Mystics and Sky-Wings. Phoenix won both meetings.
Mystics tough season continues
Losing their head coach for the final two games of the season is another tough hit in a season full of them. Washington was hoping to have its two former MVPs, Elena Delle Donne and Tina Charles, on the court together for the first time since acquiring Charles in April of 2020. Both sat out the bubble season.
Delle Donne returned briefly two years after back-to-back back surgeries, but is now experiencing nerve pain and is unlikely to suit up for the team again. Charles, again an MVP candidate averaging a league-best 24.3 points per game, missed time earlier this month with a left gluteal injury. She has been the key cog for Washington.
Myisha Hines-Allen has played in only 16 games and is currently dealing with a non-COVID illness. Ariel Atkins missed time and point guard Natasha Cloud did as well. Free agent signing Alysha Clark underwent season-ending foot surgery after playing overseas and won't play this season. And 2019 Finals MVP Emma Meesseman has been with her Belgian national team for the Olympics, opting not to re-join her WNBA team his season.
In all, players missed 91 games because of injuries heading into the week. Thibault had called it the worst injury situation he's seen in his 50 years of coaching.
It was all looking up with a playoff spot on the line, two MVPs working together low and the league's winningest head coach in history. It's again more muddled.