WASHINGTON, DC — The Washington Mystics’ march toward, what they hope, their first appearance in the WNBA Finals started by the team making sure that one of the teams who has competed in the last two championship series will not make it back to the Finals stage.
Elena Delle Donne led six players who scored in double figures for Washington with 19 points and 12 rebounds as the Mystics eviscerated the Los Angeles Sparks 96-64 in the one-game elimination in the second round of the WNBA Playoffs on Thursday night.
The third-seeded Mystics advance to the WNBA semifinals where it will take on the No. 2 seed, the Atlanta Dream, in a best-of-five series starting on Sunday afternoon.
Washington needed a free-throw line jumper at the buzzer from Natasha Cloud to defeat the Sparks just seven days ago, but today’s matchup was all but decided by the end of the first quarter. After Los Angeles took an 11-6 lead on a three-point play by Candace Parker, Washington went on a 15-2 run to take control of the game, with Delle Donne scoring eight points in that stretch.
The Mystics’ efficiency on offense continued throughout the game, shooting 57 percent from the field as their lead grew to 29 by the end of the third quarter; Of Washington’s 37 field goals, 28 of those came off of assists, including nine helpers from Kristi Toliver.
Los Angeles, who won the WNBA championship in 2016 and lost in the Finals last season to Minnesota, appeared to have no energy left after a hectic few days of travel, as it saw the team play in Connecticut in the regular-season finale, then fly back to Los Angeles to play an elimination game two days later at home against the Minnesota Lynx before flying back east.
Parker was the only player on the Sparks to score in double figures, as she scored 16 points.
*Editor’s note: Above the byline is the photo gallery from Thursday evening’s game, with all photos taken by DC Area photographer Yusuf Abdullah. After clicking on the first photo to enlarge the picture, make sure to press the left and right arrow buttons to scroll through the rest of the pictures. There are 9 pictures in total.