The Mystics won a rematch against the Hurricanes

The Mystics won a rematch against the Hurricanes

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Opinion

With less than a minute left, Elena Delle Donne dribbled down the court as another former WNBA MVP (and former teammate) stood on the defensive end. Tina Charles gave a hesitant dribble as she swung her leg and exploded for the baseline with her left hand. Charles crossed the starting line as 13-time All-Star Sue Bird rushed to help, but it didn’t matter.

Delle Donne spun, split the best two to play the game, connected with Charles before making a half hook that went through the rim with 46.5 seconds left.

The basket provided the final points as Washington bounced back from Saturday’s loss in a 78-75 victory over the Seattle Hurricanes. Dele Don missed a short runner on Ezzy Magbegore with 14.9 seconds left on Saturday. Basket would give the mystics a point. In that one, Washington fell by five in a game with major postseason implications.

“We felt like I was going to get it, especially late in the game,” Delle Donne said. “I was watching. [double teams] On the block through the entire game. But near the end of the game, other teams have to panic and shut down shooters. And I felt that if I saw and went fast, I would have a chance to score the ball. And now I checked this time to finish – unlike yesterday. I need to learn from your mistakes.

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The teams are now tied for fourth in the WNBA at 19-12, but the Hurricanes hold onto a playoff berth and will host if they meet in the first round. There are five games left, but the teams are a game-and-a-half behind the third-place Connecticut Sun (20-10) to fill the No. 4 and 5 spots.

Sunday’s win would allow the Mystics to avoid a three-game season sweep.

“If we play them in the game, knowing that we can beat them, knowing that we can defend them is huge,” Mystics coach Mike Thibault said. “They are hard to defend. Their offensive rhythm is really good now that they have a lot of players who have played together for a while. I think that gives us confidence.

There were 13 lead changes on Sunday — five in the third quarter alone — and nine games as the teams punched and punted all afternoon. Seattle’s Breanna Stewart, the 2018 league MVP, missed a game-tying three-pointer with 4.4 seconds left, and Gabby Williams missed a desperation layup with less than a second left.

The Mystics’ Ariel Atkins carried the load early and matched Stewart with a game-high 23 points. Atkins recorded her 29th game with 10-plus points, tying the Aces’ Kelsey Plum for the league lead.

Delle Donne had just six points in the first half, but finished with 17 points and six rebounds as the Mystics struggled to get more involved after halftime. Natasha Cloud had 11 points, including 10 on Sunday, as the WNBA’s assist leader had 21 over two games this weekend. She also became the 32nd player in WNBA history to reach 1,000 assists. She is now at 1,001.

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The Mystics became the fifth team to lose to the Atlanta Dream on Saturday. Their inclusion in the postseason seemed like a given for most of the season, but Atkins didn’t take that for granted.

“It means a lot to me,” she said. “We didn’t make the playoffs last year. I don’t know if you all remember, but I do. I remember what all that felt like. So it’s big. “It’s not an easy thing to do in this league,” he said.

Feeling better and better

Delle Donne played 32 minutes, 36 seconds, her third-highest of the season, while returning from surgery while on load management. This was even more impressive considering it came on the second day of a back-to-back. Thibault said she asked to play more minutes, and her plan is to see action Tuesday against the visiting Las Vegas Aces.

“It’s exciting to be able to go through back-to-backs,” Delle Donne said. “This was a big challenge that we wanted to see how I would respond, and I’m doing well. After the game [Saturday], I had two hours of therapy, and I went in too early to turn in my work today. I will spend some time. and then [Monday is] A good recovery day, and then we have a good Vegas team to go into. So I’m really excited about the way I’m reacting this season.

Over the next seven days, the Mystics will face the Aces (22-8), Chicago Sky (23-7) and Los Angeles Sparks (12-17). The first two are the league’s top teams, with Los Angeles holding the eighth and final playoff spot.

The Mystics have an added incentive to knock the Sparks out of the playoffs: Washington could swap Los Angeles’ first-round pick for a trade that sent them the dream No. 1 pick in the 2022 draft — and Thibault would love that. Picking a lottery.

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