It took one game longer than they wanted, but the Washington Mystics finally grabbed a series-ending win on Tuesday, 94-90, against the Las Vegas Aces to punch their ticket to their second straight WNBA Finals.
While it was a signature game for the Mystics in many ways, complete with 13 made three-pointers, an MVP-worthy performance from Elena Delle Donne and a high-scoring effort, it didn’t start out that way.
The Aces exploded for a 26-17 first-quarter advantage, and flashes of their Game 3 victory were evident immediately: Shots fell, several players got on the score sheet and the Mystics seemed absolutely neutralized.
Liz Cambage grabbed five of her game-high 12 rebounds in the first quarter as she and the six other Aces who scored in the game all got on the board right away.
Get ⬆️ Liz!@ecambage | #DoubleDown pic.twitter.com/76pqAJKgHI— Las Vegas Aces (@LVAces) September 25, 2019
But this early spurt of offense and defense wouldn’t last, as the Mystics finally found their footing in the second quarter. Not only did Washington hold Las Vegas below 20 points, it also took the lead heading into halftime. After Delle Donne carried the Mystics in the first quarter, scoring 11 points, the rest of the team stepped up in the second en route to a 28-point outing.
That was the name of the game for the Mystics the rest of the way: A team effort, coming together on the road in a way they simply didn’t in Game 3.
It all culminated in a fourth quarter that included four made 3-pointers (three from Emma Meesseman, who tallied 13 points in the frame), some key defensive stops and a handful of made free throws in the final seconds.
⛈️IT’S RAINING 3S ⛈️ pic.twitter.com/h43xFrKcSQ— Washington Mystics (@WashMystics) September 25, 2019
Although the Aces still hit the 90-point mark, thanks mainly to Cambage (25 points), Kelsey Plum (17 points) and two big performances off the bench by Dearica Hamby (18 points, 11 rebounds) and Tamera Young (11 points), one of their biggest scorers all season was left dormant. A’ja Wilson finished with four points and six rebounds in 26 minutes, one of her least effective outings of the season.
This time, it was in spite of Wilson’s disappointing showing that the Aces were still able to get so close. Cambage, Hamby and Young had things working for them; Wilson did not. It’s a tough way to end a series, but it’s a necessary way for a team with so much promise to learn how to improve for next season.
WE GOIN’ BACK THE FINALS pic.twitter.com/zeIWNgvH3g— Washington Mystics (@WashMystics) September 25, 2019
For now, the advantage goes to the No. 1 overall seed, led by the 2019 MVP. Delle Donne led the Mystics with 25 points, Meesseman added 22 and Kristi Toliver had 20 despite shooting 1-of-8 from three. Toliver and Natasha Cloud (11 points) each dished a game-high nine assists.
The Mystics head home to face their next opponent, the Connecticut Sun, in Game 1 of the WNBA Finals this Sunday, Sept. 29.