WNBA playoffs: No. 1 Mystics outlast Aces, 94-90, to advance to second consecutive final

Cassandra NegleyYahoo Sports Contributor
<a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/wnba/teams/was" data-ylk="slk:Washington Mystics">Washington Mystics</a>' <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/wnba/players/5058/" data-ylk="slk:Elena Delle Donne">Elena Delle Donne</a> is onto a second consecutive final after ousting the Aces. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Washington Mystics' Elena Delle Donne is onto a second consecutive final after ousting the Aces. (AP Photo/John Locher)

The No. 1 seed Washington Mystics will play in their second consecutive WNBA Finals after closing out their semifinals series, 3-1, against the Las Vegas Aces on Tuesday. The Mystics took a tightly contested 94-90 victory at Mandalay Bay Event Center and will host Game 1 of the final at home in D.C. against the Connecticut Sun on Sunday.

The Mystics controlled the third quarter and held on late after the some back-and-forth play in the final 10 minutes. Their success from behind the arc allowed them to outpace the Aces despite both sides hitting shots.

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Emma Meesseman hit the clutch 3-pointer, her fourth of four attempts, from the corner off an assist from Natasha Cloud with 29.2 seconds remaining to go up, 91-88, after Elena Delle Donne got the defensive rebound. It was the first points since Delle Donne and the Aces’ Kelsey Plum hit baskets in front of the two-minute mark.

Meesseman scored 22 points off the bench with three rebounds, three assists and three blocks, one of them a key shutdown of Aces center Liz Cambage late.

She went 3-for-3 from 3-point range within the first three minutes of the fourth quarter to give the Mystics a six-point lead, 78-72.

“Emma’s been playing like an MVP,” league MVP Delle Donne said on the ESPN2 postgame interview. “Emma’s one of the greatest in the world to play this game and boy, did she step up. She has ice in her veins.”

Plum made a layup to tighten the score, but Kristi Toliver, in her first start since Aug. 8, hit both free throws with 13.9 seconds left to seal the win. She had 20 points — 11 in the third quarter — with nine assists.

The Mystics played a cleaner game than in the third matchup of the series. They played better defense, moved the ball around and hit shots, going 47.4 percent from the floor and 43.3 percent from 3-point range.

Delle Donne, who had a game-high 25 points with six rebounds and two steals, credited being able to find spacing with their big lineup in a halftime interview with ESPN2. Most importantly, they limited turnovers as they did in each of the first two games. In each of the Mystics’ wins, they had only six turnovers.

The Aces trailed nearly all of the third quarter until Dearica Hamby gave them the lead back, 66-65, with 1:14 remaining, capping eight consecutive points. The Mystics were marred by too many passes, lackluster defense and no effort on the glass as they lost their seven-point cushion.

Las Vegas, fueled by a raucous crowd, led by as many as 10 points in the first half and tried to take the game late but were held just far enough away. Cambage, who made a statement while arriving at the arena, had another postseason double-double with 25 points and 12 rebounds. She missed early shots, though, and finished by hitting 10 of 22.

Unlike in Game 3, the Aces’ lone win, her center mate A’ja Wilson didn’t have a strong night. Wilson had four points, six rebounds and one assist.

Plum had 17 points and five assists as the only other starter in double figures. Hamby had a double-double off the bench with 18 points and 11 rebounds alongside seven assists. Tamara Young had 11 points off the bench.

The Aces made it difficult early. They went on an 11-2 run in the middle of the first and took a 26-17 lead into the second quarter. The Mystics answered with a 16-4 run to close the second quarter ahead, 45-43. A Toliver 3-pointer out of the break gave the Mystics their largest lead of the game.

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