Arlington, TX — Elena Delle Donne and the Washington Mystics improved their record to 6-2 as they knocked out the Dallas Wings in a physical matchup in Arlington at College Park Center Tuesday night.
Although she did not get the highly anticipated third double-double in a row, Delle Donne impressively mirrored her 23 points just like she did in the Mystics last outing. Also, adding a significant advantage to her team’s dominance over the Wings were Delle Donne’s four steals, three of which came in the second half.
Dallas’ Skylar Diggins-Smith also scored 23 points in the matchup -- her highest-scoring night of the season thus far. Even also leading in assists with seven, she was unable to compensate and to create needed momentum for a win tonight with her young team. Close on her tail was teammate, Glory Johnson. Johnson added 19 points for the Wings and pulled down eight rebounds. Still, they faltered to the Mystics, 101-89.
“They [Dallas] are a hard team to play against, they’re physical, they get up, get physical, and foul on almost every play, and if you do it enough times, you can get away with it. They’re a tough team to block out, and they rebound well,” Washington’s Head Coach, Mike Thibault stated on the difficulty of playing Dallas.
Carrying the first half and twin-like once again, both team’s leaders, Delle Donne and Diggins-Smith, scored 11 points and grabbed four rebounds. Unfortunately, it was not all positive for the Wings star. Diggins-Smith contributed three turnovers to the squad’s bleak total of five.
Noteworthy in the first half were the benches of both Washington and Dallas. The Wings gained 11 points from their backups, seven of which came from newcomer Kayla Thorton, and as Head Coach Fred Williams calls her, “a sparkplug coming off the bench.” The Mystics ousted that, scoring 17 off the bench with Tianna Hawkins leading the charge.
The half concluded with Washington ahead by eight, 50-42. It would be a lead that they would not relinquish, but instead, build upon.
The home team came out ready to go after intermission to close its deficit. Dallas’ Karima Christmas-Kelly and Diggins-Smith both hit huge three-pointers that propelled a 7-0 run for the Wings to start the second half. Appealing to the crowd at College Park Center, Dallas looked to capture the lead as it once again seemed within reach. Heartbreakingly, that was not meant to be.
Although the Wings had the deficit down to one at multiple instances in the third period, the Mystics held on tight to their lead. They held on even tighter in the fourth, keeping Dallas at bay by six or more for the entire 10 minutes of play.
“We felt like if we could push our tempo and get drag screens in transition, we were in a good position to cause some mismatches and confuse them a little with those pick-and-rolls,” Delle Donne stated after the game on Washington’s ability to create an immense amount of movement offensively.
While Delle Donne had another stellar game, credit cannot only be attributed to her but Tayler Hill and Kristi Toliver for sealing the deal in the final quarters with a quicker pace to the game. Both starters for Washington scored 17 points apiece total.
“We played with better pace. We were able to get a little more stops, and run, even makes and misses,” stated Toliver. “We just got up and down, we didn’t really play-call, just played. And when we do that, that’s how we want to play, and that’s when we can really put points on the board.”
The Mystics’ bench beat to the tune of Toliver’s drum as well in the second half, putting up nine points on the scoreboard.
We will be watching to see if Dallas can bring the kind of energy and physicality Coach Thibault references to their next game. This Friday night in Arlington at 8pm E.T. it will be needed when the Wings host the Los Angeles Sparks -- the reigning WNBA Champions.
Rookie Allisha Gray is confident in her team, stating that “tomorrow we are going to go in and practice, scout them and be prepared.”
Perhaps even more difficult to defeat than the swagger of a reigning champion, is the confidence of the 6-0 Minnesota Lynx. At the same time this Friday evening, the Washington Mystics will be hosting the Lynx at the Verizon Center.
The bar is set high for both teams heading into their next outing.