The coaches and players on the Connecticut Sun and Washington Mystics downplayed the idea of a WNBA Finals rematch entering Tuesday night. Combined, there were only three starters from that series on the active rosters for Washington and Connecticut. Both teams entered the season with vastly different schemes and expectations.
There was very little that was familiar from the season prior. Instead of a fully-loaded roster, the Mystics were down to only nine players with an injury to Tianna Hawkins. However, the result was the same as it was last October: a close, hard-fought win for Washington.
This time, instead of a WNBA Championship, it’s a 2-0 record the Mystics get to celebrate with a 94-89 victory.
"It was some ugly basketball for a while," head coach Mike Thibault said postgame, alluding to the combined 53 fouls.
"I think it was just two teams that want to win badly and are physical and trying to play hard. I think both teams committed more fouls than either coach would like and I don't think it had anything to do with past history at all."
There was no Elena Delle Donne, Natasha Cloud, Kristi Toliver or LaToya Sanders for the Mystics, for various reasons. No Jonquel Jones, Courtney Williams or Shekinna Stricklen for Connecticut. Completely two fresh rosters and some new faces to contend.
For the Mystics that was Aerial Powers. The 5-foot-9 guard-forward who always plays with fire, brought the intensity in this contest for Washington especially to start the second half. The Mystics fell behind by four at the halftime break after leading for most of the opening two frames.
Her quick boost out of the locker room gave the team a spark to begin a 17-4 scoring run.
"I felt like I talked to the girls at halftime, we weren't matching, in my opinion, their intensity was kind of lax," Powers said postgame. "I'm like okay, let's match their intensity, let's dive on the floor for loose balls."
Powers was one of the few players on the roster familiar with Connecticut. She was the second player off the bench (behind Finals MVP Emma Meesseman). With Myisha Hines-Allen in foul trouble and Emma Meesseman struggling with double teams, it was Powers that emerged.
Following the footsteps of Hines-Allen, Powers rattled off a career-high 27 points on 10-for-14 shooting. Powers was the deep-ball option and always found the open space for her teammates to be an outlet.
"I told her at halftime, I'm like 'We feed off, I know I feed off, you and her energy,'" Hines-Allen said postgame. "We're just going to need her to keep doing that and we're going to be successful."
Hines-Allen followed up her career game with another solid performance. Despite getting in early foul trouble and limited minutes, she always was able to get the big play. Even with the fouls counting up against her she continually drove to the basket looking to initiate contact. She grabbed pivotal rebounds and forced three steals. Her night ended with 16 points in 26 minutes of action.
On the other side of the floor, it was new offseason acquisition DeWanna Bonner that stole the show for the Sun. With a game-high 29 points, she imposed her will against Washington, including making four of her eight attempted 3-pointers. Playing all 40 minutes though may have gotten the best of her, though, as the 6-foot-4 forward was unable to out-extend Powers as Bonner attempted a go-ahead layup. Powers got a tip on the ball just enough to divert the ball into the rim.
It may not have been a Finals rematch in the sense that everyone wants and hopes for, but it is a win. And with new players and a new title up for grabs, the Mystics are going to be finding new ways to win every night.
MORE MYSTICS NEWS: