This was a game the WNBA Finals deserved.
The Washington Mystics, with the best record in the league, and the Connecticut Sun, with the second-best record, locked in a two-possession, back-and-forth contest with four minutes left in a winner-take-all Game 5.
Relying on scoring from WNBA MVP Elena Delle Donne, stellar two-way play from Emma Meesseman off the bench and fourth-quarter scoring burst from Natasha Cloud, the Mystics defeated the Sun 89-78 on Thursday.
It was the Mystics’ first championship, the first title for Delle Donne and the first WNBA championship for Mystics coach and basketball lifer Mike Thibault, who was an NBA assistant before deciding to switch leagues 16 years ago.
“A lot of people questioned why I went to a team that hadn’t been to the playoffs in a while,” said Delle Donne, who requested a trade from the Chicago Sky to the Mystics following the 2016 season. “And I saw it in Coach, I knew he was building something really special. That’s why this means so much to get this with him.”
Thibault, the WNBA’s winningest coach, initially made his mark with the Sun, taking that franchise to back-to-back Finals in 2004 and 2005, but coming up short in both attempts.
Washington also won the title in front of a sellout at Washington’s made-for-WNBA Entertainment and Sports Arena. In attendance: Wizards guards Bradley Beal and John Wall – both wearing Kristi Toliver jerseys – Wizards coach Scott Brooks and representing the highest court in the land, Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan.
“We had a goal to try to get home-court advantage. It ended up being a difference,” Thibault said. “And that work that we put in to get the fifth game on our court paid off tonight because this crowd was great, our energy was great, and so — but you don’t do that in the last two weeks of the season, you do that throughout, and I think they’ve been great at it.”
While Delle Donne, who played a portion of this series with a herniated disk, had 21 points and nine rebounds, Meesseman was the star of the game and the series. The Belgian forward scored 15 of her team-high 22 points in the second half, including 11 in the third quarter, on her way to earning WNBA Finals MVP honors. Meeseman averaged 17.8 points and shot 57.1% from the field, including 9-for-13 in Game 5.
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SOURCE: USA Today, Jeff Zillgitt