Defense, Rebounding and Physicality propel Washington to Game 3 Win
Roughly 30-35 minutes before the game, the Washington Mystics shared that both Elena Delle Donne and Ariel Atkins were available to play in Game three after being ruled questionable with back injuries.
They both started in Washington's 94-81 win over the Connecticut Sun. Each gave what they could and it was appreciated by their teammates who planned to play this pivotal Game 3 without them.
Delle Donne had 13 points and six rebounds, but it was Emma Meesseman that led Washington with 21 points and six rebounds. Following the game, Delle Donne continued to shower Emma with praise about how "no one can guard her one-on-one" and that she's one of the "greatest in the world." Meesseman has continued to live up to several of her teammates calling her "the missing piece" and Washington has needed everyone of those special performances.
Another performance that can't go overlooked is the job Natasha Cloud did on the defensive end against Courtney Williams. She was a big reason the microwave for the Sun finished with just six points on nine shots. Cloud also provided 19 points and four assists in the win.
Jasmine Thomas and Shekinna Stricklen led Connecticut with 16 points a piece. Bria Holmes provided 15 points off the bench in this one as well.
Defense and rebounding is what carried the Mystics to this win, they struggled mightily on the glass in Game 2. Alyssa Thomas used the word "dominate" to describe the job her Sun did to the Mystics on the glass. Jonquel Jones went for 32 points and 18 rebounds, while Alyssa Clark also had a double-double with 21 and 12.
It was clear early in this one that Washington wasn't going to let that happen again, the Mystics held a 18-10 edge on the glass early. Tianna Hawkins stated that it was a point of emphasis after Game 2 and Emma Meesseman talked about the job the bigs did of taking their players out of the equation and not caring who had the rebound. Just that it wasn't going to be a crowd of Sun players in the paint like the previous game.
The Sun came out strong, but Natasha Cloud provided a steady hand in the first half. Knocking down a few triples which put stress on Connecticut and eventually opened things up for others. Bria Holmes kept her team in it after Washington's strong start, she got to the basket at will and provided a steady diet of timely baskets.
The visiting Mystics held a double-digit lead midway through the second quarter, but the home team closed with a fury to cut the lead to as little as three. Kristi Toliver hit a buzzer beater to give her team a bit of breathing room.
Arguably the best third quarter team in the league, Washington flexed their muscles once again with a small run to take an 11 point lead into the fourth. It was their defense once again that was the difference.
The Mystics were getting under the skin of the Sun players, frustrating them with their physicality. It was Washington who was the aggressor and it paid off. They won the battle on the glass 34 to 27, holding the Connecticut to just seven offensive rebounds.
Mike Thibault wasn't a fan of some of his team's decisions in the second half, well all game as it pertains to the turnovers. His team made several lazy passes that resulted in steals and run outs for easy baskets for the Sun. Without the advantage of offensive rebounds, the Sun struggled to get going and the only other place in which they thrived was off of turnovers.
Emma got going in the second half, mostly off of open looks. Connecticut struggled to defend screen/rolls. Specifically when Emma popped after setting the screen, in one sequence she got three consecutive looks from the same spot. All three of resulted in made baskets.
Washington has taken a 2-1 lead, but Connecticut still has a chance to even things up in Game 4 on Tuesday night.
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