WNBA playoffs: Sun, Mystics break out in second halves to come within 1 win of the final

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Washington Mystics center Emma Meesseman (33) and Elena Delle Donne, back reacts during the second half of Game 2 of a WNBA playoff basketball series against the Las Vegas Aces, Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019, in Washington. The Mystics won 103-91. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
Washington Mystics center Emma Meesseman and Elena Delle Donne are a win away from the finals after a game 2 victory over the Las Vegas Aces. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

The No. 2 Connecticut Sun are one win away from their first WNBA final berth in 14 years after a 94-68 drubbing of the No. 3 Los Angeles Sparks in Game 2 of a semifinal at Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut.

They set franchise records with points scored in a playoff game, margin of victory (26), points in a quarter (29) and rebounds in a half (29).

The No. 1 Washington Mystics made sure there was no repeat of their first game, pulling away from the No. 4 Las Vegas Aces in the third and successfully keeping the door shut this time. Their 103-91 victory sends them to Las Vegas with a 2-0 series lead.

It’s the seventh time this season Washington has scored at least 100 points.

Both series continue Sunday.

Mystics’ Meesseman keeps on as series MVP

The Mystics escaped in game 1 and though the first half looked similar, the second was anything but. They contained any Aces run down the stretch and only allowed them to come within eight points at the 4:00 mark of the fourth.

Emma Meesseman again led the team with a career-high 30 points, giving her 57 over the two games. She was 5-of-7 from 3-point range with six rebounds, four assists and two steals.

“She’s our missing piece. She’s the additive this year that makes us different,” Natasha Cloud said during halftime of the ESPN2 broadcast.

Meesseman skipped the 2018 season due to six years of constant play around the world and commitments to the national team. The Mystics finished runner-up to the Seattle Storm and are looking to avenge a finals sweep after a historic regular season.

The Mystics went on a 19-5 run to end the third quarter and take a 80-69 lead. It was led by Meesseman’s 11 points, nine off 3-pointers, with two assists and a steal. In the run, newly awarded MVP Elena Delle Donne broke out of a 12-minute scoring drought and Kristi Toliver scored her first points with a wide-open 3-pointer in the corner.

The veteran Toliver helped shut it down late, scoring seven of the team’s final 10 points. Still on the way back from injury, she added 10 points of the bench with three assists.

Cloud had a double-double of 18 points and 11 rebounds, pacing the early attack for the Mystics. LaToya Sanders had 17 points.

“We move the ball and we know that anybody can shoot it,” Meesseman said of the team’s success.

Delle Donne was kept quiet again, but put up a double-double of 14 points and 10 rebounds.

Unlike in game 1, the Aces couldn’t successfully fight back into the match though they had their own runs. It was somewhat of a mirror image of game 1, with a fast-paced first quarter and a big run to tighten up the score at half. The Aces went into the break down, 50-49, following a 10-0 run.

They shot on pace with the Mystics and won on the glass, 35-28, but made half as many 3-pointers (8 to 4) and again led in turnovers, 13-6. All six by Washington came before the fourth quarter.

Liz Cambage scored a game-high 23 points with 10 rebounds. Kelsey Plum scored 19 and was the key for the Aces in the second quarter. Jackie Young also scored early, putting up 13 and going 3-for-3 from the 3-point line.

Tamara Young brought the Aces in late and finished with 10 points off the bench.

UNCASVILLE, CT - SEPTEMBER 19: Connecticut Sun forward Alyssa Thomas (25) reacts during game 2 of the WNBA semifinal between Los Angeles Sparks and Connecticut Sun on September 19, 2019, at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, CT. (Photo by M. Anthony Nesmith/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Alyssa Thomas, middle, and Courtney Williams are one win away from a finals berth for the Connecticut Sun. (Photo by M. Anthony Nesmith/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Williams fires up Sun offense in blowout

The Sun threw down in the third quarter, breaking open a one-point lead with a franchise record 29 points. They continued a fiery pace and level of play into the fourth quarter, which began at 70-57.

Courtney Williams shined brightest in the third, scoring 12 of her 25 points as the Sun outscored the Sparks, 29-17. Williams went 3 for 5 from the 3-point line and had six rebounds and six assists.

“We’re being more physical than we were for a lot of that first half,” Suns head coach Curt Miller told ESPN’s Holly Rowe before the fourth quarter. “And we’re making shots. Those weren’t easy shots, but that’s what Courtney does. She’s a pull-up jump shooter.”

Sparks head coach Derek Fisher cleared his bench with 5:29 to play and Sun superstar Alyssa Thomas spent her first minutes on the bench in the series, a sign form both sides it was over.

The series shifts to Long Beach for Game 3. Game 4 would return to the Sparks home of Staples Center.

Jonquel Jones scored a playoff-career-high 25 points and 11 rebounds for the Sun. Alyssa Thomas, the star of Game 1, had a double-double herself with 12 points and 13 rebounds along with four assists.

The Sparks couldn’t stop the Sun in the second half and had no answers offensively. Nneka Ogwumike led the charge with 18 points and seven rebounds. Riquna Williams had 14.

Chelsea Gray scored 10 with five assists, but, along with Candace Parker, was largely kept quiet. Chiney Ogumwike came off the bench to score 10 with five rebounds.

The Sparks came out fast, hitting consecutive 3-pointers and controlling early. Within two minutes they had their largest lead of the series, 10-4, and pushed it to a 10-point gap, 16-6, before the Sun powered back into it.

Connecticut went on an 16-5 run in the second to tie the game, 31-31, and took its first lead, 39-38, with a minute to play.

“Honestly they came out, we knew they were going to come out and punch us in the mouth,” Williams told ESPN’s Holly Rowe at halftime. “I think we withstood their run and went on [a run] ourselves.”

The Sun set a WNBA playoff record with 29 first-half rebounds. Alyssa Thomas had 10 of them, almost as many as the Sparks had as a team (17).

“It bailed us out,” Miller said.

The Sun have not lost this season when holding a lead at the half.

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