Behind 37 points from Elena Delle Donne, the Mystics escaped, 110-106, in overtime to secure a home playoff game Wednesday as either the No. 5 or No. 6 seed. Delle Donne, in addition to posting a season high for points, made 6 of 9 three-pointers and added seven rebounds and three assists in the final regular season game at Capital One Arena.
An announced crowd of 11,567 also witnessed Delle Donne block a shot shortly after reserve forward Tianna Hawkins put Washington (18-15) ahead to stay, at 101-98, with a three-pointer with 30.9 seconds left in overtime. Delle Donne's two free throws with 1.9 seconds remaining sealed the victory, ending the Mystics' three-game slide.
"Crazy atmosphere. A lot of fun to play in a game like that," Delle Donne said. "So many people just had to step up in the moment and take huge shots, and they were knocking it down, so very exciting to get that win and know we have one [playoff] game on our home court at least."
The game's final 17 points came at the free throw line, with each team fouling the other repeatedly after the Mystics went ahead 102-98 on 1 of 2 foul shots from forward Emma Meesseman with 16 seconds to play. Meesseman, an all-star in 2015, finished with 27 points, eight rebounds and five assists.
Washington shot 51 percent and connected on 12 of 27 three-pointers. It was the Mystics' second-most efficient shooting performance of the season from the field.
The Storm (14-19), meanwhile, received double-figure scoring from six players, including Sue Bird and Jewell Lloyd each with 19 points. Bird also became the WNBA all-time leader in assists in the first quarter with the 2,600th of her career. She ended the game with a season-high 13 assists.
Washington and Seattle could meet again in the first round of the playoffs depending on the results of the final day of the season. Despite losing, the Storm secured a playoff spot when the Chicago Sky fell to the Minnesota Lynx on Friday night.
Both teams had chances to win in regulation, starting with the Mystics when they gained possession with 28.8 seconds to go. Kristi Toliver received the inbounds pass and dribbled for several seconds around the three-point arc. Unable to get the ball to an open teammate, Toliver hoisted a jumper from beyond the arc that came after the shot-clock buzzer.
The Storm took over with 5.8 seconds to go, and after a timeout, Breanna Stewart had the ball in her hands. The four-time Final Four most outstanding player at Connecticut wasn't able to get a clean look, however, and missed an awkward jumper as regulation expired.
Delle Donne kept the Mystics close in the third quarter with 12 consecutive points, including 3 of 4 from three-point range. She made back-to-back three-pointers to give Washington a 59-54 lead, but the Storm scored 11 of the next 13 points to move in front 65-61 with 3:13 to go in the quarter.
A pull-up jumper and three-pointer from Delle Donne drew Washington within one, and she made two free throws to keep the Mystics within 68-67 before exiting for rest in the final minute of the third quarter.
Washington briefly took the lead on a layups by Allison Hightower and Hawkins until Stewart swished an open three-pointer with one second to play to tie the score at 70.
An 8-0 burst midway through the second quarter provided the Mystics with their most comfortable lead of the half at 36-30. Hawkins got it started with a foul-line jumper off a pass from Delle Donne, who drew multiple defenders to her while driving to the basket.
Reserve guard Ivory Latta followed with a three-pointer, and Hightower made 1 of 2 free throws for a four-point cushion. The run concluded with Delle Donne's basket before the Storm countered with a 12-6 surge, tying the game at 42 on Bird's second of three three-pointers during the up-tempo first half.
With 3:35 left in the first quarter, play was suspended to recognize Bird's milestone. Her third assist of the game moved her past Ticha Penicheiro for first all time, and players from both teams congratulated the four-time Olympic gold medalist.
Among the first players to hug Bird near midcourt was Delle Donne, who was Bird's teammate on the 2016 U.S. Olympic team that won gold in Brazil. Delle Donne, meanwhile, received an encased commemorative basket before tip-off for reaching 2,500 career points July 25 in an 85-76 win on the road against the San Antonio Stars.
"I had the privilege of coaching Sue in USA Basketball, and I've known her since her Connecticut days," Mystics Coach Mike Thibault said. "She's always been fun to watch unless you're playing against her that night. She's the consummate pro."