Mystics' Myisha Hines-Allen was the breakout player of WNBA's opening day

Hines-Allen recorded 27 points and 10 rebounds in Washington's 101-76 win over Indiana

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Even Washington Mystics head coach Mike Thibault wasn’t entirely sure what to expect from his team in Saturday’s season opener. “I'm like Curious George today a little bit, just trying to see what we bring,” he admitted before the game. “But it's exciting. We’ve waited a long time for this.”

Third-year forward Myisha Hines-Allen made sure the WNBA’s restart was worth the wait, scoring a career-high 27 points in just her second career start as the Mystics routed the Indiana Fever, 101-76. Hines-Allen hit 11 of 17 shots, including three of four 3-pointers, and added 10 rebounds for her first double-double since May 2018. She even registered an assist on the Mystics’ first possession, finding guard Ariel Atkins to start the Mystics off on the right foot.

Washington Mystics forward Myisha Hines-Allen’s shot chart against the Indiana Fever on July 25, 2020. Photo credit: WNBA.com.

“My mindset was play hard, play aggressive. That was really it,” Hines-Allen said after the game. “Take what the defense gives me.” Early on, she said, the defense was paying less attention to her in order to contain forward Emma Meesseman, last year’s WNBA Finals MVP. So Hines-Allen found open shots in the halfcourt and used her speed to get out in transition.

Hines-Allen’s previous career high was 15 points, but she surpassed that as the clock wound down at the end of the first quarter. She chased down a bounce pass from guard Shey Peddy, gathered it, and swished a 3-pointer over Indiana forward Candice Dupree.

Hines-Allen said that the sequence gave her a sense of déjà vu. “Yesterday, me and Emma were … throwing crazy passes to each other, just catching it and just shooting. So that was actually really funny that—it wasn't a bad pass, but it was just away from the defense, so I had to go get that.”

A few minutes into the second quarter, Hines-Allen made another highlight-reel play by pulling down a defensive rebound and going coast-to-coast. She faked a hand-off to point guard Leilani Mitchell, kept going, and finished over Dupree again for her 17th and 18th points.

“She's a little bit of an undersized post, but she's really quick,” Thibault said. “And she physically—strengthwise, she can match everybody. She's not going to match them on size, but when you put the strength and the quickness together, she can go by people. She blocks out great on the boards … [and] she's a post who can handle the ball some. I thought she ran the fast break with the ball in her hands several times really well.”

Hines-Allen finished the first half with 22 points, and the Mystics entered the locker room up 62-35. The 6’1 forward scored almost at will against a variety of defenders, including the 6’2 Dupree, 6’3 Natalie Achonwa, and 6’7 Teaira McCowan. In the second half, Hines-Allen scored five more points and added this assist to Meesseman in transition: 

“I hope we're going to see more of that this year,” Hines-Allen said. “Because Emma runs the floor well, so I'm looking to attack if they help off on me, then I have Emma for that pass.”

Asked postgame what worked well for Hines-Allen, Dupree responded, “Everything. She was getting the rebounds, going coast-to-coast. She knocked down some threes for them early on, being aggressive, just putting the ball on [the] floor, getting to the basket, post[ing] up. … She’s definitely developed her game in the offseason, so kudos to her.”

Hines-Allen averaged just 9.1 minutes and 3.0 points per game in her first two seasons, but her potential has always been evident within the Mystics organization. Hines-Allen said at the team’s media day that Thibault has compared her to versatile Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green ever since she was drafted, and “this year I have the opportunity to actually do everything that I've been practicing.”

Last season, Hines-Allen was the fifth post on the Mystics’ depth chart, but she always stayed positive, did extra drills with coaches after practice, and tried to learn from the players ahead of her. Then-Mystics assistant coach Marianne Stanley said, “Her approach to practicing and working to be ready has been outstanding, and it’s a matter of time before the opportunity presents itself.”

Unfortunately for Stanley, Hines-Allen’s opportunity eventually came at her expense, as Stanley was named head coach of the Indiana Fever in the offseason. “I thought Myisha Hines-Allen had a terrific game, was able to just maneuver and pretty much get anything she wanted,” Stanley said postgame.

Stanley added, “I told our assistant coaches yesterday and today, and as we prepared, that I just felt like … this is going to be a breakout season for [Hines-Allen]. Having worked with her for a couple years, she just needed an opportunity to play, and it’s tough when you’re sitting behind Elena Delle Donne, Emma Meesseman, LaToya Sanders … But she has worked hard, and she’s skilled and talented, and we saw that tonight. I wasn’t surprised at all.”

Hines-Allen said that, although Stanley knows what she brings to the court, she didn’t think that the Fever players expected her to be such a threat. But her teammates and coaches told her all week to shoot the ball and trust in her preparation, so she entered the game with confidence. “You can't go wrong when you have a lot of support in your corner,” Hines-Allen said. “So … [I] kind of knew that [it] was gonna be a good game, but didn't know it was gonna be one like this.”

As Dupree mentioned, Hines-Allen’s development overseas was a big reason why she was able to excel on Saturday. Hines-Allen entered the WNBA in 2018 as a pure post player, but in her first season in Russia in 2018-19, she played all five positions and focused on improving her guard skills. She played some minutes at small forward last season in the Mystics’ three-big lineups, but this season, her role might be even more flexible. She played a few possessions as the team’s point guard in a scrimmage earlier this week, and Meesseman and Mitchell both told the media that she was doing well. “Myisha is really capable of a lot of stuff [in] a lot of positions,” Meesseman said.

Atkins added that Hines-Allen’s performance was especially significant because it came on the weekend that the league dedicated to the Black Lives Matter movement. “We're playing for something way bigger than ourselves,” Atkins explained. “And I'm really proud of [Hines-Allen] for putting on that performance for our first game for Say Her Name campaign and for Breonna Taylor. I think it's huge what she did. And I'm very excited for her. She's worked really hard to get to this point. And I'm thankful to have her as a friend and a teammate who's able to play so well given the circumstance that we're in.”

July 25, 2020

Off the court, Hines-Allen has mobilized her teammates in support of social justice, and she has also led many of the team’s lighter moments. Her teammate Essence Carson said that Hines-Allen has made multiple TikTok videos per day since the team arrived in Florida, often recruiting her teammates to participate. On Saturday, Hines-Allen led her team on the court for the first time in her career, putting herself in a different kind of spotlight. As a result, the 2020 Mystics achieved one of the few things they could not accomplish in 2019: a season-opening victory.