When Elena Delle Donne accepted the league MVP award Thursday afternoon, she didn’t have much of a speech prepared. She could go on much longer discussing the scouting report for the Las Vegas Aces, she said. That’s where her head was at.
So she and her teammates put that to good use.
The Washington Mystics used a big third quarter to separate themselves from the Aces and held on to win, 103-91, in Game 2 of the WNBA semifinals Thursday at Entertainment and Sports Arena. The Mystics go for the sweep Sunday in Game 3 in Las Vegas.
For the second straight game, Emma Meesseman led all scorers with 30 points, one of six Mystics to score in double figures. Natasha Cloud posted 18 points and 11 assists, and LaToya Sanders scored 17.
With 14 points, Delle Donne had a modest scoring night, but was able to make it a double-double with 10 rebounds. Coach Mike Thibault said after the game that he drew up some plays in the second half to use the MVP as a decoy, knowing the Aces would still double her.
Liz Cambage led Las Vegas with 23 points and 10 boards.
Meesseman is shooting 62.2% (23-for-37) for the series so far, everything the Mystics could have hoped she would add and then some. She went 5-for-7 from the arc Thursday. The Belgian used to have a reputation for being too shy to shoot, but no longer.
“It’s easier to take my shot when it goes in,” Meesseman deadpanned.
The Aces played a sloppy first quarter, with Washington forcing them into five turnovers and tipping some other passes out of bounds. Cloud scored a fast 10 points on perfect shooting from the field (3-for-3) and the free throw line (4-for-4).
A wide-open Delle Donne shot from the corner gave the Mystics their first double-digit lead of the night a few minutes into the second quarter, and they did a solid job of maintaining the edge for a while. But after a Meesseman bucket-and-foul put the Mystics up 11, they failed to score for the final 2:40 of the half.
The Aces scored the final 10 points of the half to go into halftime only down 50-49, and stretched the run to 14-0 in the third quarter before the Mystics finally interrupted it. The Mystics still had their struggles in transition, as in Game 1, when the Aces would cross-match to open up a scoring lane on fast breaks.
For the second straight game, the Aces went into halftime with the momentum. For the second straight game, the Mystics held steadfast and didn’t collapse in a high-stakes atmosphere.
“There’s no ranting and raving and any of that at halftime in these games,” Mystics coach Mike Thibault said. “There’s no fiery pep talk. Everybody wants to know, ‘What’d you say to them?’ I say ‘Well, we need to do this and watch this,’ and that’s what we do. That’s how we go about our business.”
Washington reestablished itself in the third quarter by outscoring Las Vegas 30-20. Meesseman drained three 3-pointers from all around the arc to lead the way. The forward also dished a nice assist to Sanders while driving the basket.
“I just take what the defense gives me,” Sanders said. “I keep telling everybody, my job is probably easiest on the team because when they’re doubling Elena or Emma, my job is basically to hit wide-open jumpers and lay-ups. I’m pretty sure I can do those two things.”
The Aces drew within eight with more fast breaks and some Tamera Young jumpers, but soon it was time for the Mystics to ice it. Meesseman pulled up to make her fifth long ball of the night and Kristi Toliver followed it up with a long jumper to get the Mystics to 100.
Down 0-2, the Aces don’t feel they’re out of the series.
“Washington did what they were supposed to do: win their home games,” coach Bill Laimbeer said. “Now it’s our turn to go back to Las Vegas and we’ve been talking about our home situation, how much we like it. Now it’s our turn to go and hold our home court and come back here and go at it again.”
“We aren’t done. It’s just getting started,” Cambage said.
Las Vegas would host a Game 4 Tuesday if necessary, while Game 5 would be played back in the District next Thursday.
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