Washington tops New York 86-67 behind Delle Donne’s 21 points

Elena Delle Donne shoots over Kia Vaughn. Photo: NBAE/Getty Images.

WASHINGTON – The Washington Mystics stay atop the league after an 86-67 win over the New York Liberty at Capital One Arena Thursday night. It was the second meeting between the teams in two weeks.

Mystics rookie guard Ariel Atkins returned from her concussion protocol absence that began June 26. A great offensive start complimented the defense led by center Latoya Sanders, forward Elena Delle Donne and Atkins. This rattled New York’s offense going 3-of-10 in the first five minutes of the first quarter. However, the Mystics went through a cold front while New York heated up to lead 24-22 after the first quarter.

“The biggest thing is when you play defense, you give yourself a chance to win,” Washington head coach Mike Thibault said about the game. “I thought we were just slightly off in the first half defensively. They were making some jump shots they have not been making, but I just thought we were a step behind. The second half defensively was excellent….The ball moved well on the offensive end. I thought we sped them up more than they wanted to be sped up in that second half.”

Washington’s second unit led the second quarter. Their cohesiveness is still in the works so New York capitalized on the shaky group performance. The Mystics found most points on the perimeter after Delle Donne and Atkins came back into the game to tie it at 36 with 2:50 left in the period.

New York’s Tina Charles scored seven quick points in the paint but back-to-back threes from Mystics guard Natasha Cloud kept the lead over New York. Cloud led her team with ten points while Charles had 14 at the break. Washington led 42-41 at halftime.

The Mystics began the second half producing on the perimeter, opening with three treys. Sanders led the Mystics’ defense while perfecting her mid-range jumper.

The Mystics outscored New York 22-18 despite eight third quarter points from Charles. She had a monstrous 22 points and 11 rebounds before the final quarter.

In the last period, Washington committed a chain of fouls that chopped up the rhythm of the game, bringing New York to the line for six fourth-quarter free throws. Nevertheless, the Mystics outscored the Liberty 22-8 in the final quarter. Forward Tiana Hawkins and Delle Donne took turns attacking from the perimeter to put the game away.

“We have to compete on the defensive end, one on one as a team and really fly around and make life difficult,” New York head coach Katie Smith said about the Liberty’s performance.

Charles moved to 16th on the WNBA’s all-time scoring list during the game, surpassing her former teammate Swin Cash. She finished with a 26-point, 12-rebound double-double. Guard Epiphanny Prince added 11 points for New York.

“I was just locked in, you know?” Charles said on reaching the milestone. “I just really am just locked in, just trying to have a sense of urgency, just trying to lead by example, just trying to really help and by any means.”

Four of Washington’s starters scored in double digits. Delle Donne finished with a team-high of 21 points and three rebounds. Sanders added 14 points plus seven rebounds. Guard Kristi Toliver contributed 11 points, four rebounds and four assists. Cloud completed the first double-double of her career with 10 points plus 10 assists along with seven rebounds to put her close to a triple-double.

Washington improves to 11-6 while New York drops to 5-13. Washington visits the West Coast to face the Los Angeles Sparks Saturday, July 7. New York returns home to host the Dallas Wings the next day, July 8.


  • The Mystics dished out 22 assists and committed just 10 turnovers while holding New York to 16 assists and forcing 15 Liberty turnovers.
  • Points in the Paint: Mystics: 32 Liberty: 18
  • Second Chance Points: Mystics: 4 Liberty: 9
  • Fast Break Points: Mystics: 4 Liberty: 7
  • Bench Points: Mystics: 20 Liberty: 13
  • Biggest Lead: Mystics: 19 Liberty: 4
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