The first game of the 2019 WNBA Finals was on the Mystics homecourt in Washington, D.C., where the #1 Mystics faced the #2 Connecticut Sun. Both teams started hot, shooting over 60 percent from the field and scoring a combined 101 points in the first half. The Mystics looked poised to run away with it early in the third quarter, leading by as much as 17 points before the Sun found another gear for their defense.
The Mystics’ lead shrunk to as little as three, but the team simply has too much firepower to stay quiet for long. The home team won 95-86. Though there were plenty of tense moments, in retro spect it was a fairly dominant Mystics performance: They took a 5-3 lead early in the first quarter and never gave it up, and they kept their composure through everything the Sun threw at them.
Elena Delle Donne led the Mystics in with 22 points and 10 rebounds. For the Sun, Courtney Williams led the way with 26 points. Jonquel Jones, who finished 3rd in MVP voting this year behind Delle Donne and Phoenix’s Brittany Griner, had an unusually quiet night with 12 points and 6 rebounds.
The Mystics are two wins away from being WNBA champions.
Hello, Ariel Atkins!
Ariel Atkins awoke from her semi-finals slump, scoring 21 points on 6-7 shooting. She was relentless attacking the basket and all over the floor defensively, seemingly in the middle of every loose ball scrap.
Her ability to shine on the biggest stage, showing toughness and intelligence under pressure, was absolutely critical for countering Connecticut’s comeback attempts. The 2018 Finals were considered a coming out party for Atkins, then a rookie, and she looks poised to repeat in 2019 (hopefully with a better result at the end).
The Mystics’ bread and butter: Attacking Shekinna Stricklen
Much of the Mystics early 3rd-quarter run came at the expense of Shekinna Stricklen, who couldn’t seem to catch a break. Whether she was defending Atkins on the wing or Emma Meesseman in the post, the Mystics went after her again and again. Connecticut’s lack of depth clearly hurt them here, as coach Curt Miller clearly didn’t think he had any better options on his bench. How well the Sun can adjust their game plan to protect Stricklen defensively could make or break the series for them, because the Mystics simply offer nowhere to hide a poor defender.
Game 2 of the WNBA finals will be on Tuesday, October 1 in Washington, D.C.