Elena Delle Donne scored 25 points and Kristi Toliver added 20 more as the Washington Mystics defeated the Las Vegas Aces 94-90 and advanced to the WNBA Finals.
The win gave Washington a 3-1 series victory over the Aces, and sends the franchise to the finals for the second year in a row.
Washington Stars Take Control Late
Emma Meesseman also came up big for the Mystics, scoring 22 points after being held to just six in their Game 3 loss to the Aces.
Las Vegas was able to take a 10-point lead in the second quarter, and again held the lead heading into the fourth. But Washington was able to respond each time, with Delle Donne and Meesseman combining to score 21 points in the final quarter to help take control of the game.
Dearica Hamby had an opportunity to tie the game for the Aces with a three-pointer with just seconds remaining, but missed from the corner, allowing Natasha Cloud to put the game away with a free throw that extended the Mystics lead to four points.
One of the biggest takeaways for Washington heading into the finals was how Toliver was able to play on Tuesday. At halftime, the guard – who had been out of the lineup for 11 games late in the season with a right knee bone bruise – had the Mystics trainer take off her knee brace, which seemed to help her down the stretch.
“It restricted me from playing downhill, and that was really frustrating,” Toliver told reporters after the game. “From that moment on, I was more in attack mode and felt freer to move. When your shot’s not falling, that’s when you have to use that counter, and I was glad I was able to get rid of the brace.”
Aces Take Stock of Breakthrough Season
The Aces were led by center Liz Cambage, who scored 25 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in a losing effort. But while Las Vegas was disappointed by its elimination, the team still reflected on what had been a successful season that served to set up the franchise to become one of the WNBA’s premier teams for years to come.
“That’s why we can’t hang our heads, because we know that it’s a learning experience,” head coach Bill Laimbeer told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “I think we’re all excited about this situation.”
The victory puts the Washington Mystics back in the WNBA Finals a year after they were swept by Breanna Stewart and the Seattle Storm. This time, however, they’ll be favored against the Connecticut Sun in a battle of the league’s top two teams, both of whom are looking for their first championship.
The Mystics will host the Sun in Game 1 of the WNBA Finals on Sunday. At FanDuel Sportsbook, the Mystics are a seven-point favorite in the opening game, as well as a -260 pick to win the best-of-five series.