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2019 WNBA Finals Analysis (Game 1): Mystics ride big first quarter to 95-86 win

The Washington Mystics won their first-ever WNBA Finals game on Sunday behind Elena Delle Donne’s and Ariel Atkins’ hot shooting. But Courtney Williams and the Connecticut Sun made sure they stayed in the game to the last minutes.

2019 WNBA Finals - Game One
Ariel Atkins (center) shot 85.7 percent, including 3-of-4 from three, to help lead the Mystics to a Game 1 win.
Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images

The Washington Mystics got a hot start and maintained their lead down the stretch to hold off the Connecticut Sun 95-86 and grab their first-ever WNBA Finals victory.

Questions about how the Mystics would perform in their first true Finals home game, having played last season’s decisive Game 3 in Virginia, were answered swiftly. Washington jumped out to a 30-17 first-quarter advantage during which the team completed 13 of their 18 shot attempts, including four 3-pointers.

The Mystics took advantage of the Sun’s attention on Elena Delle Donne and Emma Meesseman, out of which emerged a surging Ariel Atkins. Atkins, who scored 18 points in the semifinals combined, put up 21 points on Sunday behind 85.7 percent shooting and 6-of-6 from the line.

But that didn’t mean Delle Donne was ineffective. She led all Washington scorers with 22 points and added 10 rebounds for the game’s only double-double. Kristi Toliver and Natasha Cloud also had statement outings for the Mystics, combining for 31 points and 12 assists.

Although Connecticut never led and its only tie came — and then disappeared — within the first two minutes of the game, it managed to threaten Washington and its boisterous home crowd by creeping to within four points several times. But Courtney Williams and Alyssa Thomas were the only players to get and shoot the ball with any regularity, and Jonquel Jones was held to 12 points and six rebounds.

The Sun, as ever, leaned on their starters, which could become a factor as the series wears on. Thomas played a full 40 minutes for the second time this postseason, and everyone else played at least 32 minutes.

But despite having four players in double figures — led by Williams’ game-high 26 points (and 6-of-9 shooting from three) and Thomas’ 20 points — Connecticut faltered at inopportune times. Every time the Sun got close late in the game, they turned it over or missed key shots. Their inaction in high-pressure situations ended up being their downfall.

After taking Monday off, the Mystics and Sun meet again for Game 2 on Tuesday, Oct. 1 (8 p.m. ET, ESPN).