Emma Meesseman scored 22 points while Elena Delle Donne added 21 to lead the Washington Mystics to an 89-78 victory over the Connecticut Sun in the decisive Game 5 of the WNBA Finals.
The victory gave Washington its first WNBA championship, while denying Connecticut its first league title.
Mystics Stars Dominate in Fourth
Game 5 proved to be the first time in the series that neither team took – and held – a significant lead early in the game. Instead, a tightly played first half saw the Sun take a 43-42 lead into the half, with Connecticut extending that lead to two heading into the final period.
But down the stretch, it was the Mystics stars who took over the action. Not only did league MVP Delle Donne – who looked better in Game 5 as she continued to recover from the back spasms she suffered early in Game 2 of the series – and Finals MVP Meesseman showed they may be the best one-two punch in the WNBA. Kristi Toliver and Natasha Cloud each scored 18 to contribute to a balanced attack.
The title for Washington comes a year after the Mystics made the WNBA Finals, only to be swept by the Seattle Storm.
Last year, Washington was without Meesseman, who chose to spend time with the Belgian national team rather than with the Mystics. As to whether or not that was the difference that got Washington over the top, Meesseman chose to share the credit with the rest of her team.
“I don’t think I’m the missing piece,” Meesseman said after the win. “I’m their teammate [and I did what] I need to do to help my team win a championship. This is my family right here.”
Thibault Finally Gets First Title
The victory was the first one in four WNBA Finals appearances for Mystics coach Mike Thibault. He led the team in last year’s loss, and had previously reached the finals with the Connecticut Sun back in 2004 and 2005.
While Thibault acknowledged the contributions of his stars on offense, he said it was on the defensive end where Washington won the game.
“Emma went to work inside. Elena does what she does,” Thibault told reporters. “You have to beat them by defending them. All the players stepped up in the fourth quarter when we needed it.”
For a time in the second half, however, it looked like the Sun would be bringing a trophy home to Connecticut for the first time. The Sun extended their halftime lead to as much as nine in the third quarter before the Washington offense clicked into gear.
The Sun were led by Jonquel Jones, who scored 25 points on 10-16 shooting. Alyssa Thomas added 21 points and 12 rebounds in the losing effort.
The Mystics and the Sun were the consensus top two teams in the WNBA by the midway point of the season, and finished with the league’s two best records. The Sun were considered a favorite to win the WNBA title after starting the season strong, while the Mystics took on favorite status by the time the regular season had come to a close.