Sunday, November 19th, 2017

WNBA Playoffs Round 1 Recap: Mystics and Mercury advance after close first halves

Published on September 7, 2017

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Washington 86, Dallas 76

In the first game of the WNBA playoffs, a single-elimination contest, the Washington Mystics held off the Dallas Wings 86-76 Wednesday night at Capital One Arena in front of 6,483 fans. Led by Elena Delle Donne who finished with 25 points and 11 rebounds, the Mystics withstood a second quarter offensive onslaught and early third quarter lead by the Wings. The victory marked Washington’s first playoff advancement since the 2002 Eastern Conference first round.

“A game like this is major step because we had to win a game in the playoffs to get to the next round and our team needs to [continue to] play great defense,” said Mystics head coach Mike Thibault. “In general, playoff games are more physical, more things are allowed to happen, and if you can fight through that and still keep your defensive presence about you, then that’s great. I think the other thing is that we got so many big offensive rebounds tonight and I think that’s a huge growth thing with our team. That’s a sign that we embraced how the game was being played.”

While the Mystics led the Wings 18-12 after the first period, Dallas roared back to outscore Washington 22-16 in the second quarter to tie the game at 34 all going into the break.

Wings guard Skylar Diggins-Smith scored the first points of the third quarter off a layup to give the Wings their only lead in the game. However, Washington’s Emma Meesseman answered with a trey to put her team back on top.

“We just knew that we had to be aggressive against this team so during halftime we had to refresh that and try not to make too many mistakes on defense and just wanted to beat them really bad,” said Meesseman. “We knew that they were going to come out more aggressive and they were going to attack the rim way more. I’m glad we didn’t lose our heads because they played so aggressive.”

Washington outpaced Dallas 25-16 in the third quarter and 27-26 in the fourth. The 27 fourth quarter points tied a season high for the Mystics.

Meesseman scored 16 points overall and pulled down 10 rebounds. Kristi Toliver also had 16 points along with five rebounds. Krystal Thomas earned a jaw-dropping 17 rebounds, a new franchise playoff record, to go along with five points.

Aerial Powers came off the bench to lead Dallas with 21 points plus six rebounds. After a second technical foul late in the fourth quarter, Powers was ejected from the game. Her teammate Glory Johnson had a double-double of 15 points and 14 rebounds. Diggins-Smith was also in double figures with 15 points.

The Wings finished regular season with a 16-18 record and 0-1 in playoff action. It was the first time since 2015 that the team made the playoffs, with only three Wings members seeing postseason action.

The Mystics (19-16, 1-0) will face the New York Liberty in round two on Sunday at Madison Square Garden. Tip off is 5 p.m. ET.

Phoenix 79, Seattle 69

The Phoenix Mercury eliminated the Seattle Storm 79-69 in a win-or-go-home contest in the second game of the WNBA Playoffs first round. Brittney Griner was a force for the Mercury with 23 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks to lead her team. She played the entire 40 minutes and helped keep the Storm under 35 percent from the field.

However, Seattle led after the first quarter 17-16. Phoenix’s second quarter efforts, outscoring the Storm 16-14 in the period, gave the Mercury a slim 32-31 advantage heading into the break.

Phoenix put up a 24-15 run in the third quarter to take a 56-46 lead going into the last period. The Storm could not recover and finished the regular season 15-19.

“It was a hard fought win, it was a playoff game really,” said Mercury head coach Sandy Brondello. “It was a bit of a grind. The teams didn’t shoot really high percentages.”

The Mercury ended the regular season 18-16, the team’s best record since 2015.

Leilani Mitchell drained key treys in the game to help Phoenix keep Seattle at bay. The point guard finished with 17 points plus four rebounds. Yvonne Turner and Diana Taurasi were also in double figures. Turner had 15 points plus four rebounds while Taurasi scored 14 points.

Breanna Stewart paced the Storm with 23 points plus eight rebounds. Jewell Loyd struggled from the field, shooting 4-of-14. She scored 17 points and pulled down five rebounds. Sue Bird contributed 10 points and five assists.

Phoenix heads to Connecticut to face the Sun in the second round on Sunday at 3 p.m. ET. The winner of that game will face the defending champions, the Los Angeles Sparks in the semifinals that begin September 12.

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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