The WNBA Finals started out in promising fashion for the Washington Mystics, but thanks to injuries, the potential for further success has dimmed.
With the status of injured star Elena Delle Donne questionable at the moment, the Mystics will likely need to dig deep when they visit the Connecticut Sun for Game 3 on Sunday.
Washington opened this best-of-five championship series with an impressive 95-86 home win over Connecticut last weekend. Delle Donne showed why she is the league MVP posting 22 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and blocking two shots as the Mystics shot 54 per cent for the game.
However, Delle Donne was limited to just three minutes in Game 2 because of a back issue that has since been diagnosed as a herniated disk. Though Washington put forth a valiant effort, they were unable to contain Sun star Jonquel Jones who posted 32 points and 18 rebounds – including a Finals-record nine offensive boards – in a 99-87 loss on Tuesday.
With Delle Donne sidelined for almost the whole game, the Mystics were outrebounded 41-27 by Connecticut, an area that again be key in Game 3.
Mystics coach Mike Thibault said the team is preparing to play without Delle Donne for Game 3.
“She has just had ongoing late-in-the-season tightness, and we’ve been able to treat it, and it’s responded pretty well and she’s been OK,” Thibault told the WNBA’s official website of Delle Donne’s health. “But it’s the one nightmare I’ve had for the last month… is seeing her lying on her back.”
According to ESPN, Washington have outscored Connecticut by 12 points with Delle Donne in the game during these Finals. However, the Mystics have been outscored by 15 when she has not been on the floor.
In addition to Delle Donne, Mystics guard Ariel Atkins, who had 21 points in Game 1, could sit out on Sunday while dealing with back spasms. Publicly, though, the Mystics believe their depth can compensate for any loss.
“We have the best bench in the league,” Washington guard Kristi Toliver said. “Everybody knows that. Connecticut knows that. We’ve relied on them so much this year and through injuries and people out. We’re going to continue to need that in this series.”
Washington showed off their talented bench in Game 2, as Emma Meesseman went 10-of-17 from the field and finished with 23 points and eight rebounds. Fellow reserves Tianna Hawkins added 16 with six boards and Aerial Powers scored 11 as the Mystics’ bench held a 52-9 scoring advantage over the Connecticut subs.
However, the Sun are a confident group that play the next two games at home, where they went 15-2 during the regular season and took care of the Los Angeles Sparks twice in the semi-finals.
Jones, who averaged team highs of 14.6 points and 9.7 rebounds during the regular season, made her presence felt on Tuesday night – after scoring 12 points but recording no offensive rebounds in Game 1.
“That’s huge when she had that mindset to go get every ball, every rebound,” team-mate Courtney Williams, who has also starred with 48 points on 18-of-38 shooting, including 9-of-14 from three-point range in the Finals to date.
In addition to Jones and Williams, Alyssa Thomas has a combined 41 points, 18 rebounds and 12 assists through the first two games for Connecticut.
The Sun won both regular-season home meetings versus Washington, most notably 84-69 to open 2019. Thomas scored 23 in that contest while Delle Donne sat with knee soreness.
Watch Washington Mystics visit Connecticut Sun in Game 3 of the WNBA Finals, live on Sky Sports Arena on Sunday at 8:30pm