Wednesday, July 26th, 2017

Elena Delle Donne returns and Mystics bounce back in 88-70 win against Fever

Published on June 11, 2017

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Indiana's Candice Dupree and Washington's Elena Delle Donne. NBAE/Getty Images.

June 11, 2017 – Indiana’s Candice Dupree and Washington’s Elena Delle Donne. NBAE/Getty Images.

WASHINGTON — The Washington Mystics (7-3) bounced back from their blowout loss Friday against the Minnesota Lynx with an 88-70 win against the Indiana Fever (4-6) Sunday afternoon. Starting forward Elena Delle Donne was back in action after missing Friday’s matchup due to a groin injury and her presence was key to the Mystics’ all-around performance vs. the Fever.

“When you bounce back that way, it’s as satisfying as anything,” head coach Mike Thibault said on his team’s seventh win. “If you told me we’d be 7-3 despite all the stuff that has been going on I’d say, ‘okay I’ll take it’, so here we are.”

Successful role playing from each player gave the Mystics the advantage over the Fever. The Mystics showed a more aggressive side in man-to-man defense, putting more pressure on where Indiana’s primary shooters, guards Erica Wheeler and Briann January usually find a lot of success, from beyond the arc.

January did not play in the game due to a left Achilles strain. Wheeler said that even though the Fever doesn’t have January, it shouldn’t hurt the team much. She led the Fever against the Mystics with 15 points, six assists and three rebounds.

“People forget I started 23 of the games last year,” Wheeler said. “Coming from behind and off the bench wasn’t the problem. It’s normal for me now, and I know I have to be more aggressive.”

The Mystics were delighted to have Delle Donne back in action to defend the rim and contribute to their offensive flow. The drastic difference of having Delle Donne in the game showed how well she fits into the team’s sets. Washington collected 18 points in the paint alone in the first quarter. The early rhythm for the Mystics put them in front of the Fever 48-35 at the half. The closest the Fever came to cutting into the lead was at the two minute mark of the second quarter when Indiana forward Candice Dupree made a turnaround hook shot to cut her team’s deficit to 12. Dupree finished with 14 points, one shy of her average.

“We got a lot of good shots but we cannot keep exchanging shots,” Dupree said. “The Mystics really had a lot of opportunities in the beginning and they’re a really good team. They had a will to get ball.”

When it was time for the Fever to defend the ball, they found themselves putting double the defenders on Delle Donne and creating open windows for others players to score. Delle Donne served as a great defensive mechanism, offensive threat and decoy for the Mystics.

“Because [Elena] is such a good scorer, it attracts more defenders around her,” Thibault said. “Others end up with more room to operate and get more drives sometimes. It helps our other post players. I thought Krystal Thomas had a terrific game tonight. Elena allows [Thomas] to get to the post and because we have other shooters on the floor it’s nice if you’re the other post player to not see double teams and triple teams.”

Forward Tianna Hawkins and Thomas seemed more settled into the rhythm of the Mystics offense. After their big minutes in Friday’s game against the Lynx, the two bench players learned from their initial mistakes to contribute in Sunday’s game.

Thomas had a big task against the Lynx in covering dominant center, Sylvia Fowles. Picking up pointers from the matchup, Thomas collected her first double-double of the season with 14 points and 14 rebounds in the matchup versus the Fever.

“That was a tough game…she’s a great player,” Thomas said on Fowles. “You can learn a lot from her and now carrying it over- my mindset was I was still playing Sylvia tonight.”

“She’s a veteran player with great size,” Fever head coach Pokey Chatman said on Thomas. “We let her play to her strengths early on. She’s a quality player.”

The Mystics’ shooting percentages continues to increase as the season carries on. Against the Atlanta Dream on June 4, the Mystics finished 23-for-63 (.365) and three games later have improved to 30-for-66 (.455). The depth of the team’s bench is beginning to weigh in on their successes.

This is a good sign for the Mystics. Bench depth is a necessity in order to become a playoff contender. With surprise players maximizing the Mystics’ edge and four players in double digit points, it shows that the Mystics are going in the right direction.

“They were exhausted on Friday,” Thibault said on the team improvement. “Part of it was conditioning, part of it is you get attention from defenders in a game like that. Now, you get to play a normal rotation…and it includes today.”

The Mystics success was not limited to the first half as they kept powering through the Fever’s defense. The lead was extended to a 21-point lead after guard Ivory Latta’s jump shot with five minutes remaining in the game. Latta finished in double digits with electric energy, scoring 12 points.

The second half also marked milestones for two Mystic players. Delle Donne finished the game with 25 points, two assists and seven rebounds. In her performance defending the rim, Delle Donne now has 750 rebounds in her career. Washington guard Tayler Hill now has 200 assists in her career. She finished with just two assists along with 12 points.

Washington’s 43 rebounds helped them in the win. The Fever  had 23. Center Erlena Larkins, the leading rebounder for the Fever, only had 3 rebounds in the loss.

“Krystal’s 6-5, so getting a rebound against a big like her is going to be a challenge,” Larkins said. “We needed more people to help us rebound. We need our guards to help too.”

In the loss, the Fever drop to 4-6, and continue their winless road streak, going 0-4. The Fever are 5-1 at home in contrast to their 2-2 away record.

“We’re still running the same things and there’s obviously a comfort at home,” Fever head coach Pokey Chatman said. “The court is still 94 by 50. It starts with consistency.”

The Mystics have a week off to prepare for their next game, a contest against the Dallas Wings in the Verizon Center on June 18 at 3 p.m. ET. The Indiana Fever will return back home for a matchup against the Atlanta Dream on June 15 at 7 p.m.

NOTES

  • This was the first meeting of 3 in the 2017 season between the Mystics and Fever.
  • The Mystics tied the overall series to 19.
  • Elena Delle Donne reached 750 rebounds in her career.
  • Tayler Hill now has 200 assists in her career.
  • Points in the Paint: Mystics: 34 Fever: 32
  • 2nd Chance Points: Mystics: 17 Fever: 7
  • Both Fever and Mystics had 4 fast break points.
  • Mystics outrebounded Fever 43-23
  • Shooting percentage: Mystics: (.455) Fever: (.426)
  • Turnovers: Mystics: 12 Fever: 8

 

This post is part of the thread: 2017 WNBA Season – an ongoing story on this site. View the thread timeline for more context on this post.


 

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