After two back-to-back early season setbacks, the Washington Mystics were hopeful that two home games would start a streak that would put them above .500 and stay close in the Eastern Conference.
That quest would start on Friday when they hosted the Dallas Wings (3-2) before a hopeful throng at the Sports and Entertainment Arena in Southeast Washington.
Washington (3-3) maintained the slight advantage early and led by as many as 11 in the third quarter before the Wings stormed back and took a brief lead late in the fourth quarter.
Led by their powerful duo, forward Elena Delle Donne and center Shakira Austin, who both finished with double-doubles, the Mystics closed the deficit to three. The two combined to be what was the deciding factor in the outcome of the game. First Austin blocked a shot attempt by the Wings that would have given the visitors a potential two-possession lead with time running out.
It proved to be crucial as on the Mystics’ ensuing possession, Delle Donne, the two-time WNBA MVP, hit a three-pointer that would prove to be the difference in a 75-74 victory.
Delle Donne led all scorers with 23 to go along with 10 rebounds, while Austin, the second-year budding star from Ole Miss, contributed 12 points, 11 rebounds and three blocked shots.
Just as important to the win were the quiet contributions of Ariel Atkins, with 10 points and eight rebounds, and Natasha Cloud, who made 10 points and eight assists.
The hard-fought victory appeared to be what the doctor ordered for the Mystics as they would face off 24 hours later against the 0-6 Minnesota Lynx, who were playing without one of the top players in rookie Diamond Miller of the University of Maryland and second overall pick in this year’s draft.
The Lynx seemed to have more of a sense of urgency as they were trying to avoid the worst start in franchise history.
Minnesota took control early, led by Kayla McBride and Napheesa Collier, opening a 62-52 advantage at the end of the third quarter, but the Mystics rallied in a fourth-quarter run that knotted the game at 78-all. However, the Lynx were not to be denied, as reserve guard Tiffany Mitchell scored on a tip-in with three seconds remaining to pull out the win and help her team end its winless streak.
A long heave by the Mystics’ Austin fell short as the buzzer sounded.
Austin got yet another double-double (14 points, 10 rebounds), while Atkins tallied 18 and Cloud finished with 14. But Delle Donne, who came into the game averaging a team-high 19 points per game, finished with 12 to go along with seven rebounds.
The Mystics have to put the disappointing defeat behind them as they go on the road for two games against the winless Portland Storm and at Indiana on June 13 before returning home on June 16 against the Phoenix Mercury at 7 p.m.