By Jacob Raim
They say a series doesn’t really start until a road team gets a victory…well consider this series fully underway. Washington led wire to wire in taking down Atlanta in Game 1 of their best of 5 series, 87-84. The Mystics looked like they would cruise to victory as they were up 10 inside of two minutes, but Atlanta closed it to a one possession game with 40 seconds to play, but could not complete the comeback as Jessica Breeland’s three to tie rimmed out with three seconds to play. Elena Delle Donne, as she did all season long, paced Washington and all scorers with 32 points.
The game started as the Mystics previous one ended, with the squad on fire. Washington opened 8/10 from the field and 4/4 from three to go up 10 in the blink of an eye. Atlanta settled down at that point though as they would tie things up by the end of the quarter.
Atlanta looked to be down and out at the start of the 2nd half, as the Mystics made a 9 point lead look like 15 within the first two possessions, highlighted by an Ariel Atkins banked three. It just looked like every roll was going to go Washington’s way. But Atlanta, as has been their MO this season, battled. The Dream closed the third on a 13-4 run, and eventually got within a single point, but never could get over the hump.
The Mystics actually did not end up shooting the ball particularly well in this one at just 38.9%, but they made up for that by committing just four turnovers and going 10/22 from distance. The Dream on the other hand shot just 6/21 from three and doubled up the Mytsics in the turnover column with eight, and that was the story. Over one stretch, Atlanta missed eight consecutive threes.
Elena Delle Donne was everything for Washington in this one, finishing with 32 points and 13 boards, as well as hitting clutch shot after clutch shot in the fourth quarter. Atkins chipped in with 15 while Cloud had 13. The Mystics got 76 of their 87 points from their starters and Hawkins was the only bench player to score, finishing with 11.
Atlanta’s star, Tiffany Hayes, took a while to get going, but when she did, she was a difference maker. She scored 11 of Atlanta’s final 13 points to finish with 17 after starting the game ice cold. Contrary to Washington, Atlanta got some heavy lifting from their bench, particularly from Alex Bently who led the team with 19 points.
Game 2 of this best of 5 series is back in Atlanta on Tuesday night at 8pm, as the Mystics will look to take a commanding 2-0 lead.