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Delle Donne closes out the Dream, Mystics win third straight

Mystics forward Elena Delle Donne excited after a clutch play secured the win for Washington

The Washington Mystics continue to win at home, they topped the Atlanta Dream 78-72. It was much harder than it should have been though, Washington had pushed their lead to 18 not once, but twice in this one. Poor execution on offense contributed to turnovers and a general lax effort on both ends of the floor. The Dream sensed that and did the right thing, they attacked. Led by Tiffany Hayes, the Dream refused to go away. With Washington struggling to close the game out, enter Elena Delle Donne. She had a monstrous game with 23 points and 15 points, with the lead cut to just two, she had arguably the biggest play of the game. Out of a time out the ball was inbounded to her, Sancho Lyttle wasn’t connected to her and closed very hard. Delle Donne hadn’t even completed the pump fake as she shared post game, but her reputation as a big time scorer caused Lyttle to respond with an out of control close out. Elena went to the line and knocked down all three free throws. On the following possession, the Mystics forced a bad shot and she hauled in her 15th rebound and let out a scream.

The Mystics obviously have a ways to go, but they can’t be mad at winning their third straight game. Especially with them not having the use of Tayler Hill, Natasha Cloud, Asia Wilson due to injury. Emma Meesseman is still overseas with the Belgium National team, she won’t return until July. Washington is currently second in the league at 5-2, trailing only the undefeated Minnesota Lynx.

Rookies. Washington’s first and second round draft picks have struggled to get consistent playing time through six games this season. With Tayler Hill and Natasha Cloud were injured and missed today’s game. Shatori Walker-Kimbrough got her first career start in Hill’s absence and Jennie Simms stepped up to take Cloud’s minutes as part of that second unit. SWK played 18 minutes in this one, Simms with 14 minutes. While the two were highly touted offensive players in their college careers, both finished as top 5 scorers at their respective schools. Their contribution wasn’t on the offensive end, they came in and played with energy and made an impact on the defensive end. Their offense will come as they continue to grow and find their comfort level on that end of the floor, it was a great example of the depth the Mystics have.

EDD. This is why she’s here, in a game where Washington struggled to put the Dream away, it was Delle Donne that closed the game. She had a monster game on the glass, pulling down 15 rebounds (14 were defensive). That complemented what she’s already known for on the offensive end (23 points). With the type of talent she has in her fellow Mystics teammates, she’s been picking her spots during games in terms of when to be ultra aggressive. She’s embracing the role of a closer for this Washington team and it’s a role they’ve been looking for someone to fill in past seasons.

Hawkins. With the “Goon Squad” being affected with the absence of Cloud, the former Terrapin put together another solid outing. Her contributions included 13 points and 6 rebounds. She usually hits one of her long distance attempts, but this game her production came from the glass and finding space down low. She played a big role in Washington’s 18-15 edge in bench points.

Closing halves. One area in which the Mystics have to improve going forward, especially if they wish to beat top notch teams is finishing. Whether it’s a quarter or half, they struggled to extend leads and put the Dream away.

Tip. Tiffany “Tip” Hayes started slow, but she did a great job keeping her team in this one. She was unstoppable at times in the second half on her way to 24 points and 6 rebounds. Despite the team shooting a dismal 35%, she led the charge and made big plays down the stretch.

Chemistry. After the game, Mystics head coach Mike Thibault said that Washington isn’t close in that area yet. “We’re not even close to having our chemistry offensively. I feel we’re operating at 50% (of our ability) offensively.” Washington has to be encouraged after that statement from their head coach, both Cloud and Hill are expected to be out for some time (Cloud expected to be out longer with the sprained knee).

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