The two-time MVP Elena Delle Donne made her much anticipated return to the floor in the Washington Mystics season opener last night against the Indiana Fever. For Delle Donne, it was the first season opener she played in since 2018.
Despite playing just three games in the past two seasons, she showed no signs of slowing down, scoring 21 points on 8-of-16 shooting and grabbing nine rebounds in an 84-70 victory for the Mystics.
Elena Delle Donne makes basketball look too easypic.twitter.com/vWjD2kS9Dl— Hoop District (@Hoop_District) May 6, 2022
This game also featured five of the first ten draft picks in the 2022 WNBA draft: NaLyssa Smith, Emily Engstler, Lexie Hull, and Queen Egbo for the Fever and Shakira Austin for the Mystics. Smith recorded a double-double in her first career game.
In just 12 minutes of play, Shakira Austin was a plus-12 and had numerous hustle plays including a reverse layup resulting in a three-point play that got the sold out crowd at Entertainment and Sports Arena enthused. Coach Mike Thibault made Austin a part of the closing lineup that helped seal the victory for the Mystics. Her defensive prowess is what she’s known for, and it was on full display for the DMV on Friday night.
The Mystics took command of this game from the opening tip, jumping out to a 15-point lead in the first quarter. The defense stymied the Fever early on, as the Mystics closed the first quarter on a 16-2 run. The Mystics shot a whopping 75 percent from the field in the opening period. A period defined by fantastic ball movement, incredible shooting, and timely help defense also helped provide 18 points off turnovers for the Mystics in the first half.
Although the Fever would cut the lead to six points with just under six minutes to play, the Mystics responded with a 13-0 run to put the game out of reach.
Mystics guard Natasha Cloud has worked on her shooting and has spoken multiple times of her improved shooting ability. Despite the three-point shot not falling, she finished the night with 17 points on an efficient 56 percent true shooting while throwing in six assists. Perhaps the highlight of the night was her step-back ankle breaker on Lexie Hull in the second quarter.
Natasha Cloud did the rookie dirty pic.twitter.com/mX0OTeQM5S— NBC Sports Washington (@NBCSWashington) May 7, 2022
In the postgame, Cloud shared:
Mystics guard Rui Machida also made her WNBA debut after leading the Japanese national team to a silver medal in the Olympics last year. In 17 minutes of play she recorded two points and two assists. Ariel Atkins scored 15 points on 6-of-11 shooting and Shatori Walker-Kimbrough added 10 points, three assists, and three steals.
The Mystics will be without the services of Delle Donne on Sunday against the Minnesota Lynx as she will be away for personal reasons. Tipoff for that game is at 8 p.m. EST.