The WNBA Finals started out promising for the Washington Mystics, but thanks to injuries, the potential for more success has turned dim.
Washington opened this best-of-five championship series with an impressive 95-86 home win over Connecticut last weekend. Delle Donne showed why she's the league MVP while posting 22 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and blocking two shots as the Mystics shot 54 percent for the game.
However, Delle Donne was limited to just three minutes in Game 2 because of a back issue that has since been diagnosed as a herniated disk. Though Washington put forth a valiant effort, it was unable to contain Sun star Jonquel Jones from recording 32 points and 18 rebounds -a Finals-record nine offensive boards - in a 99-87 loss on Tuesday.
The Mystics were outrebounded 41-27 by Connecticut, an area that obviously will be key minus Delle Donne, whom coach Mike Thibault said the team is preparing to play without for Game 3.
"She's just had ongoing late-in-the-season tightness, and we've been able to treat it, and it's responded pretty well and she's been OK," Thibault told the WNBA's official website of Delle Donne's health. "But it's the one nightmare I've had for the last month … is seeing her lying on her back."
According to ESPN, Washington has outscored Connecticut by 12 points with Delle Donne in the game during these Finals. However, the Mystics have been outscored by 15 when she's not on the floor.
In addition to Delle Donne, Mystics guard Ariel Atkins, who had 21 points in Game 1, could sit Sunday while dealing with back spasms.Publicly, though, the Mystics believe their depth can compensate for any loss.
"We have the best bench in the league," Washington guard Kristi Toliver said. "Everybody knows that. Connecticut knows that. We've relied on them so much this year, and through injuries and people out.
"We're going to continue to need that in this series."
Washington showed off its talented bench in Game 2, as Emma Meesseman went 10 of 17 from the field and finished with 23 points and eight rebounds. Fellow reserves Tianna Hawkins added 16 with six boards and Aerial Powers scored 11 as the Mystics' bench held a 52-9 scoring advantage over the Connecticut subs.
However, the Sun are a confident group that gets the next two games at home, where they went 15-2 during the regular season and took care of Los Angeles twice in the semifinals. Jones, who averaged team highs of 14.6 points and 9.7 rebounds during the regular season, made her presence felt Tuesday - after scoring 12 points but recording no offensive rebounds in Game 1.
"That's huge when she had that mindset to go get every ball, every rebound," teammate Courtney Williams, who has also shined while totaling 48 points on 18-of-38 shooting, including 9 of 14 from 3-point range in these Finals.
In addition to Jones and Williams, Alyssa Thomas has a combined 41 points, 18 rebounds and 12 assists through the first two games for Connecticut.
The Sun won both regular-season home meetings versus Washington, most notably 84-69 to open 2019. Thomas scored 23 in that contest while Delle Donne sat with knee soreness.