Emma Meesseman leads Washington in 103-91 win over Aces, Mystics take 2-0 lead in semifinal series
Emma Meesseman has a career night as Washington tops Las Vegas for 2-0 series lead
WASHINGTON D.C. – With a sea of scarlet pom poms, red blinking wristbands and a sell out 4,200 crowd in Entertainment and Sports Arena cheering her on, Washington Mystics’ forward Elena Delle Donne hoisted up the 2019 MVP Award in a pregame ceremony before her team dispatched the Las Vegas Aces 103-91.
She is the first player to win the award on two separate teams, her first MVP coming in 2015 with the Chicago Sky. Now, later in her career, the difference for Delle Donne is playing with teammates that match her hunger, performance and can emulate the same success with and for her.
“They’ve truly helped me succeed and really challenge me in ways I didn’t know I could continue to be challenged.” Delle Donne said during the award press conference.
It may have been the night to honor Delle Donne, but the game belonged to fellow forward, Emma Meesseman. The Belgian phenom recorded the team-high with 30 points and six rebounds and Washington took a commanding 2-0 series lead over Las Vegas in the best-of-five semifinals of the WNBA playoffs.
Las Vegas got caught up in doubling Delle Donne, allow Messeeman’s versatility to shine. She shot 5-of-7 from three-point range. In the series against Las Vegas, Meesseeman has 57 points, 17 rebounds and seven assists under her belt.
“You can’t just have one or two, we need three or four to win a championship,” Washington head coach Mike Thibault said. “She’s embraced that this last part of the season. She was aggressive and she was looking for the ball. There’s a whole different body language to her about this right now.”
Delle Donne acknowledged the ugly shooting night going 5-of-15 and functioned as a decoy. She still earned a double-double of 14 points and ten rebounds. Center LaToya Sanders took on the big job of guarding Aces center Liz Cambage, swatting balls, blocking her and keeping Cambage away her typical shooting spots in the paint. Sanders scored 17 points and pulled down eight rebounds as the Aces paid most of their defensive attention toward Delle Donne.
“My job is the easiest on the team because when they’re double Elena or Emma, I just take wipe open jumpers,” Sanders said. “I’m pretty sure I can do those two things. Defensively, Liz is a talent, and a big girl. I try to make it difficult for her.”
In the first half, Mystics guard Natasha Cloud scored 10 points while Meesseman collected 16 points. Washington’s 63 percent shooting in the first quarter powered them on an 11-5 run in the second quarter. Cold shooting and fouls would eventually make room for Las Vegas and the Mystics squandered an 11-point lead. The Aces eventually found rhythm in the paint and muscled out a 10-0 run as the Mystics defense withered away.
The Aces outscored the Mystics 23-20 in the second quarter and Washington went into halftime with a slim 50-49 lead.
After the break, Meesseman emerged again as Washington dissected Las Vegas’ perimeter defense to go 8-of-20 from three-point range. Delle Donne’s teammates lived up to her praises in their court performance. Six players landed in double figures for Washington.
“When one person gets a ring, we’re all getting a ring,” Sanders said. “It’s easy to play when everybody has that mindset.”
Despite the loss, the Aces outrebounded the Mystics 35-28. Cambage finished with a double-double of 23 points and 10 rebounds. Forward A’ja Wilson went 3-of-12 from the floor with 8 points and seven rebounds. Forward Dearica Hamby finished with six points and eight rebounds. Guard Kelsey Plum saw her second start of the playoffs and earned 19 points and ten rebounds.
“I’m playing the point guard.” Plum said. “All season I’ve played the two. [I] have the ball in my hand.”
Do or die, Las Vegas
Washington’s away win at the Mandalay Bay Event Center 8:30 p.m. E.T. Sunday would lock in a trip to the 2019 Finals and sweep the series. On their home floor, Las Vegas went 13-4 in the regular season and averaged 4,500 fans per game.
“We get to go home and go back to the house and play in front of our fans that lift us up every game,” Cambage said. “We ain’t done, [we’re] just getting started.”
- Points in the Paint: Aces 46, Mystics 28
- Second Chance Points: Aces 12, Mystics 4
- Fastbreak Points: Aces 7, Mystics 2
- Biggest Lead: Aces 5, Mystics 16
- Lead Changes: 6
- Times Tied: 5
- Officials: #39 Michael Price, #34 Maj Forsberg, #9 Tim Greene
- Attendance: 4,200 (Sellout)
- Washington’s 103 points scored are the most points scored in a playoff game in franchise history, topping a pair of 97-point performances, one of which came in game 1 against Las Vegas.
- The Mystics shot 38-73 (.521) from the field, tying the franchise playoff record for field goals made in a single game, tying the mark set in Game 1 against Las Vegas.
- Mystics center LaToya Sanders scored 17 points, a new playoff career high, on 7-10 (.700) shooting to go along with six rebounds, three blocks and two steals. Sanders has recorded multiple blocks and multiple steals in each of Washington’s playoff games this season.