ATLANTA, GA -- With their leading scorer Elena Delle Donne back in the lineup for a second time, the Mystics arrived at McCamish Pavilion for an Eastern Conference showdown. A rivalry where Washington has come out on top in three of four matchups.
The Washington Mystics powered through a short depth defense and a wild second half to defeat the Atlanta Dream 77-70.
As the ball favored the Dream from tipoff, Brittney Sykes’ jump shot for Atlanta was first to put points on the board. Only one lead change in the first half of play, and the Mystics drove this train from there.
Washington gradually gained speed and took off running. Delle Donne banked one off the glass and drove in a layup with under a minute left in the first quarter to keep the Mystics’ lead at eight. The ankle injury that benched her two games proved to be no obstacle as she finished with 10 points and seven rebounds.
But it was Emma Meesseman’s 30 point performance that shined for the Mystics.
“My personal strategy is to play basketball and be aggressive,” explained Meesseman. “I know I have to be aggressive, especially against this team because they go hard.”
The Dream found their rhythm in the second quarter, tightening the trail to four. Then Washington pummeled their back court strength in the remaining minutes of the half. Kristi Toliver’s two key dingers from the three-point line extended the lead 40-26. A few trips to the line for the Mystics solidified a 15 point spread at the half.
Out of the locker room, Washington looked to have control on the court. But Layshia Clarendon stole the ball from Delle Donne, and Sykes' running layup cut the deficit to 10 halfway through the third. Clarendon led the Dream with 10 assists, adding up to her season total of 166 - an Atlanta Dream record.
“Another loss and another record broken,” said Clarendon. “I had no idea, so that’s pretty cool. But we’ve got to start winning some games. It’s awesome though.”
But a Bria Holmes pull-up jump shot put Atlanta within eight and striking distance. Toliver responded with another three-pointer to bring the Mystics’ lead back up into double digits. Their offensive steam would soon blow out.
In the final period, the Dream made their last final push and cut the deficit to 70-63 off a Clarendon three-pointer. Washington turned over the ball 12 times, double the Dream. Turnovers were Atlanta’s window into a win, but time ran out and the Mystics held onto their first half of work after only scoring nine points in the final stanza.
“Our turnovers were a problem. Atlanta had almost a third of their points off of our turnovers,” explained Head Coach Mike Thibault. “We hung in there when our offense went south. We had a couple injuries during the game and we were just trying to survive the fourth quarter.”
Both teams hit the road next week as Washington (14-9) has a date next with San Antonio on Aug. 4 at 8 pm EST. Atlanta (10-13) faces the 2015 champion Minnesota on Aug. 3 at 8 pm EST on ESPN 2.