Mystics-Storm Preview

When Elena Delle Donne is on the court, the Washington Mystics are a different team.

Makes sense, since the forward is a four-time WNBA All-Star and the league’s 2015 MVP.

And she’s the reigning Eastern Conference Player of the Month and Player of the Week.

Which means despite sharing the league’s top record, the Seattle Storm (14-5) will have their hands full Sunday afternoon when they host the Mystics (12-6) at KeyArena.

The Storm beat the Mystics 81-77 on May 29 in Seattle as Jewell Loyd scored 27 points, but Washington was without Delle Donne, who was sidelined with flu-like symptoms, and guard Natasha Cloud.

The Mystics are 11-3 with Delle Donne in the lineup this season and 1-3 without.

“We haven’t done anything,” veteran Storm point guard Sue Bird, who is tied for the league lead with 7.5 assists per game, told The Seattle Times after the previous meeting against the Mystics. “What have we done? We beat Washington without Elena Delle Donne and Natasha Cloud. So what? They had eight people.

“Don’t get me wrong. I’m not Negative Nancy who can’t look at our team and understand that we’re playing at a high level and that we’ve done a lot of good things.”

Led by forward Breanna Stewart, who is tops in the WNBA in scoring (22.2 points per game) and fifth in rebounding (7.7), the Storm has won four straight games to tie Phoenix for the league’s best mark. Delle Donne is among the league leaders with 19.9 points per game.

The Mystics, who have won six of their past seven games, are coming off an 83-74 victory Saturday afternoon at Los Angeles, as Kristi Toliver scored a team-high 20 points in helping coach Mike Thibault record his WNBA record 300th career regular-season victory. LaToya Sanders added 14 points and a team-high eight rebounds and Delle Donne and Ariel Atkins each scored 11.

“My life has been really rewarding doing this,” Thibault told his hometown St. Paul (Minn.) Pioneer-Press last month. “And I feel like, in some small way, maybe I’ve made a difference somewhere.”

Stewart had 29 points and nine rebounds and Bird added a season-high 18 points and 10 assists, her 26th career double-double, as the Storm won 95-86 on Friday at Atlanta to sweep a two-game trip that also took them to New York. Natasha Howard had 10 points and 11 rebounds against the Dream and Seattle tied a season high with 21 fast-break points.

The Storm, which leads the league in scoring with 87.0 points per game, has a 21-15 advantage in the all-time series against the Mystics.