Local SportsSportsWilliam J. Ford

Mystics Christen New Digs in Dominant Fashion

Elena Delle Donne couldn’t miss in the first half, and Ariel Atkins took over the second half to lead the Washington Mystics over the Atlanta Dream 96-75 Saturday in Washington’s first game at its new home, the Entertainment and Sports Arena in southeast D.C. where the team recorded a sellout crowd of 4,200.

Delle Donne scored 16 of her 18 points in the first half on 7-for-7 shooting, while Atkins notched 15 of her game-high 21 in the second half.

Mystics head coach Mike Thibault said his team play a near-flawless game.

“It’s a good way to christen a building,” Thibault said. “We had a lot of people play well.”

Washington (1-1) had five players in double figures, included bench players Emma Meesseman and Shatori Walker-Kimbrough with 14 and 10 points, respectively.

Fans stand to try and catch a free T-shirt during the Washington Mystics' 96-75 victory over the Atlanta Dream on June 1, the Mystics' inaugural game at their new home venue, the Entertainment and Sports Arena in southeast D.C. (Anthony Tilghman/The Washington Informer)
Fans stand to try and catch a free T-shirt during the Washington Mystics’ 96-75 victory over the Atlanta Dream on June 1, the Mystics’ inaugural game at their new home venue, the Entertainment and Sports Arena in southeast D.C. (Anthony Tilghman/The Washington Informer)

The team shot 57 percent from the floor and dished out 27 assists, compared to Atlanta at 42 percent with nine assists.

It didn’t hurt that Atlanta (1-2) was in the second game of a back-to-back set, coming off a loss Friday to the defending WNBA champion Seattle Storm.

The Dream showed signs of fatigue with zero fast break points through the first three quarters.

“[During] almost every timeout or huddle … we just kept saying, ‘Keep our foot on the gas. They’re tired.’ We kept going at them,” said starting guard Natasha Cloud, who scored four points along with four assists. “I had a trash night and that’s OK. There’s only up from here. For our bench to be able to step up … and be able to fill that void is huge. It’s evitable that some of us are going to have off-games.”

The first game at the new arena was otherwise a marked success, and the Mystics weren’t the only winners on the night: fans in attendance scored free Chick-fil-A sandwiches thanks to a pair of missed free throws by the Dream in the fourth quarter.

Monica Brown (left) and her goddaughter Taylor Sterling sport Washington Mystics throwback jerseys during the team's 96-75 victory over the Atlanta Dream on June 1, the Mystics' inaugural game at their new home venue, the Entertainment and Sports Arena in southeast D.C. (Anthony Tilghman/The Washington Informer)
Monica Brown (left) and her goddaughter Taylor Sterling sport Washington Mystics throwback jerseys during the team’s 96-75 victory over the Atlanta Dream on June 1, the Mystics’ inaugural game at their new home venue, the Entertainment and Sports Arena in southeast D.C. (Anthony Tilghman/The Washington Informer)

The arena’s intimate settings gave fans such as Northeast Monica Brown and her goddaughter Taylor Sterling seats just steps away from the court.

“It was great. It was exciting,” Brown said. “I like the intimacy. We are right on top of them. It was fun.

Brown also wondered whether the scene would shift back to the Mystics’ old digs at Capital One Arena in northwest D.C. should the team make the playoffs — a reasonable query considering their postseason success last year.

Washington made the WNBA Finals but were swept by Seattle, a loss that drives the team this season.

In the locker room, Mystics guard Kristi Toliver sported a “Run It Back” T-shirt, in reference to their quest to return to the finals and bring a championship to the District.

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William J. Ford – Washington Informer Staff Writer

I decided I wanted to become a better writer while attending Bowie State University and figured that writing for the school newspaper would help. I’m not sure how much it helped, but I enjoyed it so much I decided to keep on doing it, which I still thoroughly enjoy 20 years later. If I weren’t a journalist, I would coach youth basketball. Actually, I still play basketball, or at least try to play, once a week. My kryptonite is peanut butter. What makes me happy – seeing my son and two godchildren grow up. On the other hand, a bad call made by an official during a football or basketball game makes me throw up my hands and scream. Favorite foods include pancakes and scrambled eggs which I could eat 24-7. The strangest thing that’s ever happened to me, or more accurately the most painful, was when I was hit by a car on Lancaster Avenue in Philadelphia. If I had the power or money to change the world, I’d make sure everyone had three meals a day. And while I don’t have a motto or favorite quote, I continue to laugh which keeps me from driving myself crazy. You can reach me several ways: Twitter @jabariwill, Instagram will_iam.ford2281 or e-mail, wford@washingtoninformer.com

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