Wings fly into first-round meeting with Mystics (Sep 5, 2017)
WASHINGTON -- The Washington Mystics faded over the final weeks of the WNBA season, and they enter the playoffs as the sixth seed. That means Elena Delle Donne and crew host their first-round matchup Wednesday.
The problem is, the visiting Dallas Wings have had no issue playing at Washington this season.
The seventh-seeded Wings (16-18) finished 6-11 on the road, but they won both meetings at Washington (18-16) this season, including an 83-78 triumph Aug. 26 behind 20 points from Skylar Diggins-Smith. Dallas led the league in scoring at 86.1 points per game.
"I think we played pretty well against Washington," Wings coach Fred Williams told the Dallas Morning News ahead of the Wednesday night game. "So it'll be a pretty good matchup all the way around."
Expectations soared for the Mystics after they acquired Delle Donne in a blockbuster trade with Chicago during the offseason and signed guard Kristi Toliver. Injuries to Delle Donne, Tayler Hill and Natasha Cloud played a factor in Washington never quite finding a rhythm. Washington went 2-6 over its final eight games.
The Mystics lost four of five following the return of Delle Donne from a lengthy absence caused by thumb surgery. Delle Donne finished the season tied for third in the league in scoring at 19.7 points and shot 95.3 percent from the free-throw line. She scored 12 points in 18 minutes Sunday during the regular-season finale, an 86-72 loss at Minnesota.
"I thought it was a great game to have right before playoffs," Delle Donne said of the matchup against the regular-season champion Lynx. "Definitely a good game to get under our belt."
Delle Donne dominated in Washington's final home game of the regular season with 37 points on Friday in a 110-106 overtime victory over Seattle. The Mystics went 11-6 at home.
"We had some good moments and we had some lulls, but other than that, it's time for playoffs now," Delle Donne said. "It's a clean slate, and we are excited about the opportunity."
Emma Meesseman, who missed 11 games playing overseas, ranked second on the Mystics behind Delle Donne with an average of 14.1 points.
Diggins-Smith ranked seventh in the league in scoring at 18.5 points per game and finished fourth in assists at 5.8 per game. Against Washington, the point guard upped her averages to 20.6 points and 7.3 assists.
"I just try to do what I do naturally. I don't think it's forced -- any of the responsibilities," Diggins-Smith said following the Wings; previous win over Washington. "Being a leader in this locker room and being with Fred for as long as I have and being in this league for as long as I have ... It's a team effort. It's a team full of everyone stepping up."
Washington ranked third in rebounding this season, led by Krystal Thomas' work inside (third in the league at 9.6 boards per game). Dallas has its own premier rebounder in Glory Johnson (fifth at 9.1).
The winner Wednesday will meet either the New York Liberty or the Connecticut Sun in a road game Sunday. The winner of that contest moves onto the best-of-five semifinals.