Two clubs with plenty of motivation to win their first league title meet in Game 1 of the WNBA Finals on Sunday in the nation's capital.
Since being swept by Seattle in the finals last season, Washington's focus was to get back to the championship series. This time, coming out on top.
"It's hard to win a championship," guard Natasha Cloud told the Mystics' official website prior to the start of the season. "It's extremely hard to even put yourself in the position to win a championship. But, a championship team is our team."
Washington endured the rigors of a regular season, going a league-best 26-8. The Mystics boast the WNBA MVP in Elena Delle Donne, who averaged 19.5 points and 8.3 rebounds during the regular season, and four other players who averaged at least 10.3 points.
Delle Done had 25 points and Emma Meesseman added 22 as the Mystics punched their ticket to the finals with a 94-90 win at Las Vegas in Game 4 of the semifinals earlier this week. Both are averaging 21.3 points in the playoffs. Kristi Toliver scored 20 and added nine assists and Cloud also had nine assists - plus 11 points - as Washington knocked down 13 3-pointers and shot 47.4 percent overall in the clincher.
"That's what makes a championship team, that's the makeup, it's everybody doing their part," Toliver told The Associated Press. "Everybody knows their role. Not everybody can be a chief, we gotta have Indians, too. And, we got a great group of Indians - best in the league."
Connecticut might beg to differ.
Though some in the media feel the Sun don't have that one superstar traditionally helpful to win a title, they've managed to use any slights from pundits - or "DisrespecCT," that's become their motto - to fuel this postseason run. Connecticut, which finished second in the league at 23-11, held Los Angeles to 66.3 points per game while sweeping its semifinals series with relative ease to reach the finals for the first time since 2005 - when current Washington coach Mike Thibault was guiding the team.
"I just don't think people have been paying attention to how we've played all season," forward Alyssa Thomas, who has been dealing with shoulder issues but is one of four Sun players that averaged at least 11.1 points during the regular season, told The Associated Press. "We are a No. 2 seed for a reason. And for no one to pick us and just assume that we are not a team that can't play in the playoffs, we took that to heart."
Jonquel Jones led the Sun in both scoring (14.6 ppg) and rebounding (9.7 rpg) during the regular season, while sparkplug Courtney Williams (13.2 ppg) might be the motor that makes Connecticut run.
The Sun won two of the three meetings with the Mystics this season, both at home. Washington rolled to a 102-59 victory in the most recent matchup on June 29 in front of its home fans.