Mystics – Storm WNBA Finals Preview

By Kelly Rakusin

The Washington Mystics are headed to the WNBA Finals for the first time in the franchise’s 21 year history. As Kristi Toliver put it following Tuesday’s win-or-go-home Semifinal victory in Atlanta, “It’s an exciting time to be a DC fan.” The road to title-town, however, will not be an easy one, as Washington heads to Seattle to face the No.1 overall seed Storm in a best-of-five series.

Season Series

Seattle took the regular season series against Washington (2-1) with the home team prevailing in each match-up. The Storm’s two wins at Key Arena came in a pair of highly contested games winning by 4 and 6 points, respectively and featuring a combined 17 lead changes and 12 ties.

In their initial meeting on May 29, the Storm handed the Mystics their first loss of the season when a combined 52 points from Jewell Loyd (27) and Breanna Stewart (25) proved too much to handle against a short-handed Mystics squad playing without leading scorer, Elena Delle Donne.

The second loss to the Storm came in game two of a West Coast back-to-back road trip. Delle Donne scored 29 points in her first game against the Storm with Toliver adding 18 and rookie Ariel Atkins 17. The Mystics led by as many as eight after a dynamic 10-4 run to open the third quarter. Sue Bird scored a regular-season-high 21 points, while Stewart led the team with 25 points and 10 boards as they outscored the Mystics 27-10 in the final seven minutes of play.

The Mystics were not going to let the Storm sweep the series on home-court, handing the league-leading visiting team a 23 point loss, their largest of the season. Washington led by as many as 27 in the wire to wire victory, where Delle Donne posted 30 points on 16 shots, and LaToya Sanders was perfect across the board, posting a double-double (17pt/12r).

Keys to the Finals

Beyond the Arc

If you like 3-point shooting, then this is the Finals match-up for you. Both teams love shooting from behind the arc, and both do it well. The Storm led the league this season shooting 37.6% from long distance making up 31.1% of their shots, with the Mystics right behind them, shooting 35.8% to account for 29.8% of their shooting.

The 3-point party has carried over into the postseason for both Seattle & Washington, shooting 37% and 35.7% respectively. Both teams have also defended the 3-point well this postseason and that will be a major key in this finals match-up.

Can’t Keep EDD Down

When Elena Delle Donne went down hard in Game 2 against Atlanta with what appeared to be a devastating left knee injury, most Mystics fans assumed the worst. The consummate professional and star forward, remained calm, “I’ll go home…see our doctors…I’m hopeful to be back in the lineup Friday.” While she was not in the lineup Friday, her rigorous rehab treatment (including shock waves, float tanks, and hyperbaric chambers to name a few) allowed her to return for Game 4 and 5 of the series. Delle Donne has recorded a double-double in each of her five appearances this postseason, joining Lisa Leslie as the only other player in WNBA history to record five consecutive double-doubles. Bigger than any stat line though, Delle Donne’s sheer presence on the court is immeasurable.

Bench Mob

The Mystics bench stepped it up in a big way this season. Often seen getting very hyped on the sidelines, they also ranked fourth overall in scoring, averaging 23.6 points per game. In the Game 5 win, Tianna Hawkins provided a huge spark off the bench with 17 points in just 10 minutes of play. Bench production will be crucial for Washington, especially with Delle Donne still recovering from her Game 2 knee injury.

She’s a Rookie??

Mystics rookie Ariel Atkins is playing like she’s been around the league for years. Atkins has scored in double digits in all but 1 Playoff game, including her heroic performance on Tuesday, leading the team with 20 points, 7 rebounds and 3 assists. Her hustle and toughness on both ends of the floor are unmatched. “That was one of the most clutch performances I’ve ever seen — especially by a rookie,” said Delle Donne, “My goodness, she looked like a six-year veteran. She never seems to be afraid of the big moment.”

This is as big of a moment as it gets. Can the Mystics continue to make history and bring a WNBA Championship to DC?

Game 1 of the WNBA Finals is set for Friday, September 7 at 9 p.m. ET in Seattle. The game will be broadcast on ESPNews and Monumental Sports Network.

The following is the schedule for the WNBA Finals series:



Sep. 7

Washington at Seattle – GM1





Sep. 9

Washington at Seattle – GM2





Sep. 12

Seattle at Washington1 – GM3





Sep. 14

Seattle at Washington1 – GM4*





Sep. 16

Washington at Seattle – GM5*