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Elena Delle Donne lifts the Mystics over Wings in a thriller

Mar 29, 2023Mar 29, 2023

Elena Delle Donne came to the rescue again Friday night. The Washington Mystics saw their double-digit lead evaporate in the third quarter. By midway though the fourth, they were down five.

Then the two-time MVP made a pair of three-pointers, letting out a scream after the second put her team up one with 2:44 remaining and brought her teammates sprinting from the bench as a back-and-forth game took a crucial turn. The Mystics didn't trail again, holding on for a 75-74 victory over the Dallas Wings at Entertainment and Sports Arena.

"I love being able to learn a lesson with a win," Delle Donne said. "A little tougher when you have to do it with a loss. It's a group who's been in these type of moments, and we’re able to kind of just get it together. But obviously being a veteran group, we need to also not let it get to that point.

"That's part of my job as a leader to try to figure out a way to keep us locked in and keep us doing the things that were working."

Delle Donne finished with 23 points and 10 rebounds and Shakira Austin posted another double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds as the Mystics improved to 3-2. Ariel Atkins finally found her shooting stroke and tallied 16 points and eight rebounds.

A tough early stretch shows the Mystics' potential and their issues

The Wings (3-2) were led by Arike Ogunbowale, who scored 18 to go with six assists. Satou Sabally added 18 points and 14 rebounds, while Natasha Howard posted 16 points and 13 rebounds.

The Mystics’ fourth-quarter comeback had Entertainment and Sports Arena as loud as it has been all season. The teams traded momentum swings, with Delle Donne's threes the last twist before Atkins made seven straight free throws in the final minute. Delle Donne's second three-pointer was set up by Austin chasing down Kalani Brown for a spectacular block of a transition layup that would have extended the Wings’ lead to four.

"Moments like that, they’re energy-shifters," Austin said. "You could see everybody on the court to the bench, like, they just feed off that. It was dope. I was about to dap Myisha [Hines-Allen] up, but I’m like okay, wait. I look down, and Elena's shooting the three."

Austin and Delle Donne met at center court for an emphatic chest bump after a timeout was called.

"That was like a ‘I’m her’ moment for both of us," Austin said with a laugh. "Yeah, you did that. It was mutual. It was like, yeah, we’re here."

The Mystics appeared in control early in the third quarter after a pair of free throws from Austin pushed their lead to 43-32. But the Wings answered with an 11-2 run. The Mystics responded with five straight from Delle Donne and a three-pointer from Atkins to push the lead back to 10.

Then things got ugly.

The Wings promptly ripped off a 14-2 run to close the third quarter — a burst fueled, in large part, by Washington turnovers. The Wings finished with 20 points off 15 Mystics giveaways. Sabally's three-pointer with 1.1 seconds left put Dallas up two heading to the fourth.

The Mystics went into halftime with a 36-30 lead after a first half in which both teams struggled to put the ball in the basket. Washington shot just 30 percent from the field, while the Wings hit at just 25.6 percent. The home team made more free throws (15) than field goals (nine) in the opening 20 minutes.

"It was a big gut-check win," Mystics Coach Eric Thibault said. "We were in a similar position against Connecticut, down at home, and I thought tonight we just played so hard. Got back on transition, got loaded up to the ball, people diving on the floor, blocking shots. We just didn't feel like our faith dropped at all there when we were struggling.

"It's what I expect from this group, to be honest with you."

Here's what else to know about the Mystics’ win:

Ogunbowale was named Western Conference player of the month Friday. She is third in the league in scoring, averaging 25.3 points, and is taking a WNBA-high 22.8 shots per game. The two-time all-star credited not playing overseas for the first time for her offseason improvement, meaning she was able to train, lift weights and work on her game.

New York's Breanna Stewart, averaging 24.4 points and 10.4 rebounds, was the Eastern Conference player of the month.

Hines-Allen (knee) is expected to make her debut Saturday against Minnesota after she missed the first five games of the season while rehabbing from offseason surgery.

Thibault did not make it official but previously indicated she was likely to play in one of the two games this weekend if she responded well to Thursday's practice. He said she felt good Friday and had no issues from the session.

Friday was the Mystics’ "Wear Orange" game to bring attention to gun violence. The second gentleman, Doug Emhoff, was in attendance before the game as part of a youth clinic on the court.

The Mystics host the Minnesota Lynx to complete the season's first back-to-back. The Lynx will be without No. 2 overall pick and former Maryland star Diamond Miller (ankle).