Breanna Stewart may have won the WNBA MVP award on Sunday, but Elena Delle Donne sure stated her case to dominate the headlines for the day. The Washington Mystics star dominated Game 1 of best-of-five WNBA Semifinals series against the Atlanta Dream, dropping a game-high 32 points and grabbing 13 rebounds to lift the Mystics to a 87-84 win.
— NBA (@NBA) August 26, 2018
There was no denying who the best player on the court was. Delle Donne attacked the interior of the Dream’s defense, shooting 10-of-22 from the field, including 2-of-4 from three. Her aggressiveness paid off as she got to the free throw line, making all 10 of her attempts in the process. At one point the public announcer begged the Atlanta crowd to make noise to disrupt the sharp-shooting Delle Donne at the charity stripe, but to no avail. The Mystics shot a perfect 20-of-20 from the free throw as a team.
The Mystics controlled the pace of the game from the second quarter on, grabbing a 51-42 halftime lead.
Atlanta, who will play the series without its second-leading scorer Angel McCoughtry (torn ACL), fought back in the second half. However, every time the Dream would chip away at their deficit, the Mystics responded.
In the fourth quarter, the Dream cut their deficit to 74-71, but the Mystics went on a quick 7-0 run behind a jumper and long 26-foot three from Delle Donne on back-to-back possessions. Following an Ariel Atkins layup, Delle Donne made four straight fields goals to stave off a Dream rally. Then Delle Donne found Atkins for a pull-up jumper with 1:58 remaining to push Washington’s lead to 87-78.
— Washington Mystics (@WashMystics) August 26, 2018
Atlanta would cut the deficit to 87-84, but Jessica Breland missed a potential game-tying three with three seconds remaining, as the Mystics held on for the win.
Delle Donne had an MVP-caliber season during the regular season, leading the Mystics to a 22-12 record and a No. 3 seed in the WNBA Playoffs. However, she fell short for MVP finishing third in the MVP voting behind Stewart and Liz Cambage. Maybe Delle Donne was motivated by the slight, and took her frustration out on the Dream.
The Mystics have looked the strongest during the postseason. They closed the regular season winning eight of their last nine games, and thrashed last year’s finalist the Los Angeles Sparks 96-64 in the second round. The Mystics have the early series lead with two of the next three games being back in D.C.