WASHINGTON – This was a game the WNBA Finals deserved.
The Washington Mystics, with the best record in the league, and the Connecticut Sun, with the second-best record, locked in a two-possession, back-and-forth contest with four minutes left in a winner-take-all Game 5.
Relying on scoring from WNBA MVP Ellena Delle Donne, stellar two-way play from Emma Meesseman off the bench and fourth-quarter scoring burst from Natasha Cloud, the Mystics defeated the Sun 89-78 on Thursday.
It was the Mystics’ first championship, the first title for Delle Donne and the first WNBA championship for Mystics coach and basketball lifer Mike Thibault, who was an NBA assistant before deciding to switch leagues 16 years ago. Thibault, the WNBA’s winningest coach, initially made his mark with the Sun, taking them to back-to-back Finals in 2004 and 2005, but coming up short in both att
“A lot of people questioned why I went to a team that hadn’t been to the playoffs in a while,” said Delle Donne, who requested a trade from the Chicago Sky to the Mystics following the 2016 season. “And I saw it in Coach, I knew he was building something reallys special. That’s why this means so much to get this with him.”
Washington also won the title in front of a sellout at Washington’s made-for-WNBA Entertainment and Sports Arena. In attendance: Wizards guards Bradley Beal and John Wall – both wearing Kristi Toliver jerseys – Wizards coach Scott Brooks and representing the highest court in the land, Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan.
While Delle Donne, who played a portion of this series with a herniated disk, had 21 points and nine rebounds, Meesseman was the star of the game and the series. The Belgian forward scored 15 of her team-high 22 points in the second half, including 11 in the third quarter, on her way to earning WNBA Finals MVP honors. Meeseman averaged 17.8 points and shot 57.1% from the field, including 9-for-13 in Game 5.
Connecticut led 70-67 with 6:44 left in the fourth quarter. On Washington’s next possession, Cloud drained a 3-pointer then followed it up with a two, giving Washington a 72-70 lead. Meesseman capped 13-2 run with another bucket, putting the Mystics up 80-72.
Cloud had nine of her 18 points in the fourth quarter, and Kristi Tolliver, who recovered from sloppy play early in the third quarter, added 17 points for the Mystics.
All-Star Jonquel Jones led the Sun with 25 points, and All-Star teammate Alyssa Jones had 21 points and 12 rebounds.
Washington was playing in its second consecutive Finals after being swept by Seattle a year ago.