Washington Mystics survive late Atlanta Dream push to reach first WNBA Finals in franchise history

Yahoo Sports Contributor
Yahoo Sports
The <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/wnba/teams/was" data-ylk="slk:Washington Mystics">Washington Mystics</a> knocked off the <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/wnba/teams/atl" data-ylk="slk:Atlanta Dream">Atlanta Dream</a> on Tuesday night, and will advance to the WNBA Finals for the first time in franchise history. (AP)
The Washington Mystics knocked off the Atlanta Dream on Tuesday night, and will advance to the WNBA Finals for the first time in franchise history. (AP)

After a nasty knee injury in Game 2, one that left fans and many on her team questioning her return this postseason, Washington Mystics star Elena Delle Donne returned for the final two games of the WNBA semifinals series against the Atlanta Dream.

And while she didn’t necessarily play up to her usual standards on Tuesday night at McCamish Pavilion in Atlanta — she had been averaging nearly 30 points in the postseason before the injury — it didn’t matter. Her teammates picked up the slack.

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The Washington Mystics survived a tight Game 5 match that went down to the final seconds against the Atlanta Dream 86-81, advancing to the WNBA Finals for the first time in franchise history.

Delle Donne hurt her knee at the end of Game 2 in the series when she fell driving through the land and bent her left knee out of place. She had to be helped off the court and sat out of their five-point Game 3 loss.

The former league MVP, though, returned in Game 4, dropping a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds with her knee wrapped up in a brace to lead the Mystics to a 21-point win to force the Game 5 on Tuesday night.

The 6-foot-5 forward finished with a double-double 14 points and 11 rebounds on Tuesday, shooting 5-of-13 from the field. She did, though, hit four clutch free throws in the final 15 seconds of the game to seal the win.

Forward Ariel Atkins picked up the slack offensively down low, dropping 20 points and going 8-of-8 from the free throw line. Guard Kristi Toliver put up 19 points — 17 of which came in the first half — and Tianna Hawkins added 17 points off the bench in just 10 minutes of playing time.

Those four, plus a critical 9-0 run late in the fourth quarter, was enough to push the Mystics past the Dream and into the WNBA Finals.

Alex Bentley led the Dream with 16 points, shooting 7-of-15 from the field. Renee Montgomery and Brittney Sykes each finished with 15 points.

TheMystics will advance to the WNBA Finals later this week, and will take on the winner of Seattle Storm-Phoenix Mercury — who face off in their Game 5 on Tuesday night in Seattle.

This story will be updated with more information shortly.

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