“[The mask] doesn’t bother her,” Mystics Coach and General Manager Mike Thibault said of Delle Donne, who was not made available for comment. “As she said, you can see clearly. So she could see the hoop, and her hand works and her legs work. The nose has nothing to do with her shots. Obviously it hasn’t bothered her.”
Delle Donne showed what she can do while wearing the mask Friday in a win at Indiana, making a tying basket in the final seconds of regulation and scoring 28 points as she lifted the Mystics (11-6) to a 95-88 overtime win. On Sunday, she matched that output against the Dream (5-14).
Her return, along with the hustle of forward Tianna Hawkins (13 points) and the sharpshooting of forward Aerial Powers (17 points), left Washington a half-game behind first-place Connecticut with one game to go before the All-Star Game.
“I think we’re setting the tone right now before all-star break,” Hawkins said. “And we have one more game to continue to set the tone, but I think it just feels good to have everyone back with Elena and Emma [Meesseman]. We are out here doing our job, and we’re doing it well.”
Hawkins and fellow forward Meesseman ended a slow start for the Mystics when they entered late in the first quarter. Hawkins sparked the surge, scoring three baskets in the paint. Messeeman turned in key defensive plays on her way to finishing with six rebounds and six assists. Guard Natasha Cloud accented the run with two three-pointers in the second quarter, and the Mystics led 45-31 at halftime.
Both teams expressed frustration with the officiating during the game. Thibault walked onto the court at one point, screaming, “It’s a foul!” The Dream’s top scorer, center Elizabeth Williams (14 points), and guard Alex Bentley showed their annoyance in their expressions.
But the calls did not deter the Mystics’ momentum in the second half. Powers filled in seamlessly for starter Ariel Atkins, who was sidelined to manage tendinitis in her left Achilles’, with back-to-back three pointers in the final minutes. Center LaToya Sanders and guard Shatori Walker-Kimbrough each put up nine points, and guard Kristi Toliver had seven assists. Thibault said it was fun to watch his team “spread the wealth.”
“What felt best was to kind of get back to a game that had some flows, some up and down to it,” he added. “I thought our defense was really good for long stretches, and we had a whole bunch of different people contribute.”
But it was Delle Donne’s near-perfect play that gave the Mystics the push they needed to trounce the scrappy but inconsistent Dream. Her scoring output was one off her season high.
The Mystics visit Minnesota on Wednesday before Saturday’s All-Star Game, which will feature Delle Donne as a captain and Toliver as a reserve. Challenges loom after that, but Thibault said he is focused only on the next game.
“All I’ve thought about is Minnesota this week,” he said. “You know, the rest I won’t worry about.”
Read more from Post Sports: