By Lauren Rosenberg and Kyle Jones
With the Connecticut Sun defeating the Los Angeles Sparks in a 3-0 sweep, and the Washington Mystics pulling out the win against the Las Vegas Aces in a 3-1 series, the finals matchup is now officially set.
On Sunday, September 29, the #1 Mystics will play host to the #2 Sun in the first game of the WNBA finals at Entertainment and Sports Arena. Both teams are coming off of exciting semi-final series and a ton of momentum.
Washington Mystics (Lauren)
The Mystics were bound to return to the WNBA finals this season. Washington made their first appearance in the finals in 2018 and were swept by then-MVP Breanna Stewart and star point guard Sue Bird. They had a shot at winning Game 2 that would’ve extending the series to at least four games, but the Storm prevailed with a final score of 75-73.
The Mystics had to wait six long days before they would figure out their semi-finals competitor due to earning a double-bye.
The Las Vegas Aces, who had a first round bye, advanced to the semi-finals after a controversial buzzer beater shot by Aces Dearica Hamby off of a Sky Courtney Vandersloot turnover resulted in a narrow win against the #5 Chicago Sky with a score of 93-92. The Aces were hungry and ready for more.
The Mystics-Aces matchup was bound to be an exciting one and it did not disappoint. Both teams have some of the top post players in the league in A’ja Wilson, Liz Cambage and Elena Delle Donne, the two former of the Aces and the latter of the Mystics.
Delle Donne was named 2019 WNBA MVP, the first for the Mystics franchise and the second for her, the first being in 2015 with the Chicago Sky, right before Game 2 of the semi-finals.
The Mystics series sleeper, Belgium center Emma Meesseman, was the perfect fit for the one-two punch of she and Delle Donne in the post. She took advantage of her opportunities and recorded a postseason career high and a double-double of 27 points and 10 rebound, outshining Delle Donne’s 24 points and 6 rebounds. With both of their explosiveness and strong defense, the Mystics were able to edge out the Aces with a score of 97-95 in a Game 1 thriller.
The Mystics were ready to capitalize on their narrow win and bring it all to Game 2. They did not disappoint. Six players, four starters and two bench, all recorded double-digit scoring in a game where the rock was shared. Bench players, forward Aerial Powers and guard Kristi Toliver, each recorded 10 points. Forward Latoya Sanders recorded 17 points and pulled in 6 rebouds. Delle Donne and guard Natasha Cloud both recorded a double-double with Delle Donne scoring 14 points and grabbing 10 rebounds while Cloud scored 18 points and dished out 11 assists. Meesseman continued her momentum and reset her postseason career-high and tied her regular season high with 30 points as well as 6 rebounds and 4 assists.
Delle Donne continued her stellar play into Game 3, but to no avail. She recorded 22 points and was helped by bench players Powers and Toliver, who recorded 13 and 14 points respectively. The starters recorded 40 points, with only Delle Donne pulling the weight as she had 55% of the total starters’ points. The Aces won with a score of 92-75 to force a Game 4.
The Mystics decided to do something different in Game 4. Instead of the normal starting 5 of Sanders, Delle Donne, Meesseman, Cloud and Ariel Atkins, head coach Mike Thibault decided to swap Tolivar and Meesseman to have a post weapon come off the bench. That strategy worked in their favor as the Mystics beat the Aces with a score of 94-90 in Vegas. Delle Donne had 25 points and Meesseman had 22 points. Toliver made use of her starting position and extra minutes to record 20 points and dish out 9 assists, 1 off from double-double. Cloud was in a similar circumstance as Toliver as she recorded 11 points and 9 assists, also 1 off from a double-double.
Connecticut Sun (Kyle)
The story of the Sun is a story of punching above their weight class, and nobody will tell you more about that than the Sun themselves. Preseason polls wrote them off and the star power isn’t at the same level as teams like Las Vegas, Los Angeles or Phoenix, but nevertheless they persisted.
With a regular season record of 23-11, the Sun locked down the second seed for the WNBA playoffs. The Sun averaged 80.8 points-per-game, allowing only 77.9. The Sun also control the boards, averaging 36.8 rebounds-per-game during the regular season.
In the playoffs, the Sun earned first and second round byes due to their seeding and wound up facing the Los Angeles Sparks in the semifinals. The Sparks, led by the Ogwumike sisters and Candace Parker, were absolutely no match for the Sun.
Game 1 went to the Sun, by a score of 84-75. Four Sun players scored double-digit points, while only two Sparks players achieved that feat. Candace Parker’s double-double for the Sparks was no counter to the overall dominance from the Sun.
Game 2 ended similarly, 94-68 for the Sun. Four Sparks managed double-digit points, but double-doubles from Jonquel Jones and Alyssa Thomas, and 25 points from Courtney Williams, sealed things for Connecticut.
Game 3 ended all doubts, a dominant 78-56 win sent the Sun to the WNBA Finals. Courtney Williams had another stellar performance, with a double-double, and Jasmine Thomas’ 29 points broke the Sparks’ spirit. Nneka Ogwumike was the only player with double-digit points for the Sparks.
The Sun have looked dominant in their run to the Finals, and they’ll look continue that dominance against Washington.
5 Keys to the series for Connecticut:
- Courtney Williams is on fire, so let her go to work.
- Lock down Delle Donne. She’s MVP for a reason.
- Control the rebounds. Best way to shut down Delle Donne: don’t let her have the ball.
- If Delle Donne is gonna go off, limit the other players. The one game Las Vegas won in the semis came when only EDD went off.
- Get the bench involved. Against a team as good as the Mystics you have to have a reliable rotation.
5 Keys to the series for Washington:
- Feed Meesseman and Delle Donne in the post.
- Get Toliver and Cloud more opportunities to shoot beyond the arc as well as open lanes for drives.
- Bolster up on post-defense.
- Limit Courtney Williams on the perimeter but also keep an eye out on her driving to the lane.
- Defend the perimeter tightly to force hesitation moves.
Lauren: Mystics in 5 (3-2)
Kyle: Sun in 5 (3-2)
Edited by Emma Moloney | firstname.lastname@example.org