WNBA's best offense shows new element in Mystics win over Fever

Tyler Byrum
NBC Sports Washington

WASHINGTON – Fans at the Entertainment and Sports Arena have witnessed a glut of points from the Washington Mystics this season. They've broken 100 points twice and have gotten close numerous other times. Thursday night against the fading Indiana Fever was par for the course, as the home team poured it on again in a 91-78 victory.

However, it was the first time that Washington had been able to play with a highly anticipated lineup that featured Emma Meesseman playing with the starters. Meesseman, still coming off the bench, along with Elena Delle Donne and LaToya Sanders saw the court together in a rarity that pushed the Mystics ahead in a dominant third quarter. 

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Together, the three of them were the best on the court. They combined for 57 points on 25-for-34 shooting with Delle Donne, still playing with a facemask and a left knee brace, leading the charge with 22 points. 

"I liked what our big lineup did together tonight. I thought that neutralized [Indiana] a little bit," Mystics head coach Mike Thibault said after the game.

"We've been trying to get to it a little bit more, but with the different injuries and all the other stuff, it just doesn't fit… We'll see it a little bit more."

Getting Meesseman back on the court playing with Delle Donne is what a lot of fans have been hoping for since the Belgian missed the entire 2018 season. Meesseman was a 2015 All-Star and one of the top players for Washington before Delle Donne joined the squad in 2017. In back-to-back seasons before Delle Donne's arrival, the forward shot over 44% from deep. 

Her on the court with Delle Donne would give the Mystics another stretch-forward option that can open up the lane for the rest of the team. 

Thursday she saw that elusive playing time alongside the MVP contender for one of the few times in 2019. Typically Meesseman has served as Delle Donne's backup. In joining forces, Meesseman set a new season-high of 19 points, breaking the 18-point mark she reached last game. 

"We try to play to practice every possible lineup. So I feel like I'm used to playing with everybody on this team," Meesseman said postgame despite missing 11 of the team's 23 games this season. 

Seeing the big three of Delle Donne, Meesseman and Sanders on the court at the same time sparked a huge 29-15 third quarter. As a team Washington shot 60% in the frame, growing a two-point lead into a 16-point advantage going into the final quarter. During the fourth, there was a lot more experimenting with the power trio. 

"When Emma is on the attack, we're a really difficult team to guard. It's just another person to spread the floor and make it really hard for defenses to pay too much attention on one person," Delle Donne said of her teammate postgame. "We need that every night out of her."

As for Sanders, she benefited from the added threat of Meesseman in the frontcourt. Sanders reached double figures for the fourth time this season, scoring 16 points in 28 minutes. 

It was the 11th game of the season Washington (16-7) has scored 90 or more points, the sixth time they've done it at their home confines. The team entered Thursday's contest with the most potent offense in the entire WNBA. They led the league in points (87.2 per game) and had the best overall field goal percentage (46.2%). 

Both averages went up when the final whistle sounded. 

Play in the opening quarter was similar to their season averages. Washington was on pace to break the century mark with 25 points and they were shooting a clean 60% from the field. 

It was turning into a rout, similar to what the Mystics have done to opponents at home all year.

Much of their offensive dominance, though, disappeared in the second quarter. Indiana (8-16) got physical and essentially took Delle Donne out of the offense. A 13-point lead built in the first was erased and it was tied at 38. 

But once Washington got back into their rhythm in the third, there was no looking back. The Fever never got the lead back down to single digits. 

Winners of seven of their last eight, the Mystics remain in second place in the WNBA standings. And with a former All-Star being able to play with the Mystics' top grouping, the ceiling on this team is still unknown. 

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WNBA's best offense shows new element in Mystics win over Fever originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

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