The WNBA best-of-five semifinal series between Washington and Atlanta has lived up to its potential, delivering a little of everything in four games played during the past week -- great defense, back-and-forth action, heroic performances, and an offensive eruption by the Mystics that pushed the teams into a win-or-go-home matchup.
That fifth game will be at McCamish Pavilion in Atlanta on Tuesday and the winner will advance to the league finals to face Seattle or Phoenix, who will also play a fifth and deciding game on Tuesday.
The Mystics forced a fifth game with a 97-76 rout of the Dream on Sunday afternoon in Washington. All-Star forward Elena Delle Donne, who missed Game 3 of the series with a left knee bone bruise, returned to pour in 15 points and grab 10 rebounds for Washington.
Kristi Toliver led Washington with 22 points and rookie Ariel Atkins added 19. Natasha Cloud scored 13 and LaToya Sanders had 10 points as the Mystics shot 50 percent from the field.
"Obviously, it's a nice present to see her in uniform ready to go," Washington coach Mike Thibault said of Delle Donne. "She just gives everybody else around her confidence that we kind of got this, that we have the best player in the game on the court. And that helps a lot mentally."
The Mystics put away the Dream via a 22-7 run at the beginning of the fourth quarter after Atlanta had cut Washington's advantage to five points late in the third quarter.
Delle Donne's participation in the series finale will be a game-time decision, the team said, but expect to see the Mystics' "Superwoman" on the court.
Tiffany Hayes, Renee Montgomery, Brittney Sykes and Jessica Breland each scored 12 points for the Dream in Game 4.
"Our mindset is to just to fix our mistakes that we made in this game, look back on it, how can we do better, how can we stick together and bounce back and have a completely different mindset going into the next game and to win," Dream forward Monique Billings said.
Atlanta has home-court advantage for the decisive game, and in a series that has been so evenly played, that could be a huge difference-maker. The Dream, who closed the regular season winning 16 of their final 19 games, haven't lost two in a row since June 27-29.
Atlanta has grabbed 158 rebounds in the four games against Washington, which is a franchise best for a playoff series.
"If you told me in February or May or June, even in early July that we would have one game with a chance to go to the Finals I'd be pretty excited," Atlanta coach Nicki Collen said after the Game 4 loss. "I certainly told (the players) we have to learn from this game, but we also have to flush. We've built up too much momentum to hang our heads."
The teams split the first two games in Atlanta, with the Dream fighting back from a double-digit deficit to win Game 2. Delle Donne averaged 29.5 points and 13.5 rebounds in the first two games.Bet Now
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|Ariel Atkins||Position: Forward (F) |
|Elena Delle Donne||Position: Forward (F) |
|LaToya Sanders||Position: Center (C) |
|Natasha Cloud||Position: Guard (G) |
|Kristi Toliver||Position: Guard (G) |
|Jessica Breland||Position: Forward (F) |
|Brittney Sykes||Position: Forward (F) |
|Elizabeth Williams||Position: Center (C) |
|Renee Montgomery||Position: Guard (G) |
|Tiffany Hayes||Position: Guard (G) |