The Mystics entered Sunday’s critical Game 4 with their backs against the wall (down 1-2) in their best-of-5 WNBA Semifinals series with the Dream. Right on time, they got a big part of what got them there back, as Elena Delle Donne (knee bruise) returned from a one-game absence. The return of Delle Donne – who scored 15 points to go with 10 rebounds – clicked the pieces of the Washington machine back in place and led the Mystics to a statement win when they needed it most. On the night, six Mystics reached double-figures as Washington forced a Game 5 with a 97-76 victory.
Kristi Toliver’s huge night is the beginning of a long list of examples of Delle Donne’s positive impact Sunday. After an off night in Game 3, Toliver stayed in attack mode Sunday in Game 4 and found her rhythm early. Toliver poured in a game-high 22 points Sunday to go with seven assists as the Mystics offense woke up in a big way. Rookie guard Ariel Atkins followed with 18 points, while Natasha Cloud added 13 points and LaToya Sanders tallied 10 (seven rebounds). Tierra Ruffin-Pratt led the second unit with 11 points off the bench.
Washington used a barrage of 3-pointers Sunday to win going away after leading for nearly the entire game. It shot 46.2 percent from beyond the arc to go with 50 percent shooting from the field overall, using improved spacing and movement from Game 3. The Mystics also owned the paint on both ends of the floor, out-rebounding Atlanta again (40-31) and outscoring the Dream in the paint, 36-24.
Leading by nine heading into the half, the Mystics only wavered momentarily in the third quarter when Atlanta mounted a 10-0 run to cut what was a 15-point Washington lead down to five. Then, Delle Donne knocked down a 3-pointer at the 1:53 mark to halt the run and light a spark for Washington. The triple sent the Mystics back on track to a 72-61 lead entering the fourth quarter.
From there, Washington poured it on using four 3-pointers in the fourth quarter to put the game on ice. The Mystics’ lead ballooned to as many as 23 in the final frame as their potent offense flexed its muscles to close the game out.
With the win Sunday, a trip to the WNBA Finals will all come down to Tuesday night’s Game 5 in Atlanta. Tipoff on ESPN2 at Georgia Tech’s McCamish Pavilion is TBD.