Washington Mystics forward and WNBA MVP Elena Delle Donne played only three minutes and 28 seconds of Game 2 in the WNBA Finals on Tuesday. That’s because she suffered a back spasm and never returned.
The Connecticut Sun took advantage of Delle Donne’s absence to win 99-87 at Entertainment and Sports Arena in southeast D.C.
The Sun not only tied the best-of-five series at 1, but also took home-court advantage as the action heads to Connecticut for Game 3 Sunday and Game 4 on Oct. 8.
Connecticut’s two big post players, Jonquel Jones and Alyssa Thomas, led the Sun with a combined 53 points and 30 rebounds.
Jones recorded 32 points and 18 rebounds. Thomas played all 40 minutes for a second straight game with 21 points, 12 rebounds and six assists.
Jones, a 6’6″ center, sealed the game with about two minutes left in the fourth quarter with a 3-pointer to put the Sun up 94-85.
Jones scored only 12 points and six rebounds during Sunday’s Game 1 performance.
“My teammates were looking for me,” Jones said. “We talked about getting me the ball more. I just wanted to deliver.”
When asked if the Sun players and coaches talked about Delle Donne not playing for the majority of the game, they said it wasn’t necessary.
“We did not address that,” said Sun head coach Curt Miller. “We’ve had situations before like that when good players have gone down in games. This is the benefit of having a core group that’s been together for four years.”
In addition, the Sun was the only team to play all five starters throughout the regular season.
Mystics head coach Mike Thibault said Delle Donne dealt with back issues late in the regular season. Thibault said an MRI would be done on her back and no results would be available for a few days.
The Mystics leaned on their bench that scored 50 points led by Emma Meesseman’s 23. She led the team in scoring.
Tianna Hawkins scored 16 points and grabbed six rebounds. Aerial Powers contributed 11 points and scored seven points in the third quarter that aided Washington’s comeback that cut the deficit to 71-69.
“I thought we got deflated a little bit when Elena went out and took us too long to recover from that,” Thibault said.
Mystics All-Star point guard Kristi Toliver scored 13 points, but only shot 6-for-20 from the floor. She did register a game-high seven assists in more than 38 minutes of action.
“Tonight was terrible,” Toliver said about missing some shots. “A lot of shots that were makeable shots didn’t go down. I can’t remember the last time I shot the ball 20 times. It’s just finding the rhythm and finding the conditioning level to play 38 minutes. I haven’t played like that in a while.”
The Mystics either must win two games in Connecticut to achieve the franchise’s first WNBA title, or win at least one game to host a deciding Game 5 in D.C. on Oct. 10.
“I like playing on the road. I look forward to it,” Toliver said.