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Another incredible Elena Delle Donne performance puts a lid on the Mystics regular season and the MVP race

Another incredible Elena Delle Donne performance puts a lid on the Mystics regular season and the MVP race

WASHINGTON — A regular season finale that took place after Washington Mystics guard, Aerial Powers, thanked the packed crowd at the Entertainment and Sports Arena for their sustained support throughout the entire season, ended just as you’d expect.

Another Mystics W, 100-86.

The last time these two teams faced off, the Chicago Sky completed a surprising upset of the league’s best squad. It was the first time the Mystics allowed 85+ points in nine games, losing 78-85. The lackluster defensive performance caused head coach Mike Thibault to “take things back to basics,” and reiterate the importance of communication on defense.

After coach’s pep talk, the Mystics rattled off six straight victories to take the best team in franchise history into the postseason.

“It’s a nice way to finish the season,” Thibault said. “Our goal was to be on an upward trend to finish the season, and when you’ve won 16 of your last 18 games I guess you could call that an upward trend.”

Everything was pretty much smooth sailing until the third quarter when the Sky outscored the Stics, 24-18. However, the squad managed to weather the storm late and keep coach Thibault’s blood pressure moderately reasonable.

“We were good until we started fouling,” Thibault said. “This is a team we may see in the playoffs, we’ve got to iron out the little things.”

In typical Mystics fashion, they continued to make history in a game that at this point merely counts as an exhibition. They topped the 95-point plateau for the 13th time this season, and surpassed the century mark for the 14th time since the 2017 season — Washington has the most 100+ point games in that span.

A huge (understatement) contributor to that continued offensive prowess is Mystics Captain, and league MVP (according to her teammates), Elena Delle Donne.

“We won’t be happy unless we have a championship,” EDD said. “It’s that simple.”

Aerial Powers, on the other hand, had a little more to add to the simplistic answer given by Elena.

“Have you seen her numbers!” Powers exclaimed. “She [Elena] goes out and produces every single game. She can do everything but what solidifies her as the MVP is that she makes people around her better.”

“When you can play with someone that makes you better it’s a wonderful thing.”

Delle Donne finished the night with 25 points on 75 percent shooting (9-for-12) and grabbed 12 rebounds. This was her 15th time this season tallying 20+ points in a game. Voted the preseason MVP favorite, receiving 42 percent of the GM votes, her performance tonight could very well solidify that assertion.

Her teammates aren’t the only ones who believe she’s the league’s Most Valuable Player. After the final buzzer sounded, when fans typically funnel out to beat arena traffic as quickly as possible, those in attendance, without being prompted, broke out into ‘M-V-P’ chants for about a minute.

The atmosphere inside of ESA was chilling.

“It was a special moment,” Delle Donne said. “I absolutely love this city and there’s nowhere else in this world I’d rather be.

Due to their regular season dominance, the Mystics earned themselves a double-bye and are slated to play either the Minnesota Lynx, Las Vegas Aces, or Seattle Storm in the semifinals on Tuesday, September 17th.

Phase three of ‘run it back,’ has officially commenced. See you in two weeks.

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More good injury news for Wizards, this time with Troy Brown Jr. and C.J. Miles

More good injury news for Wizards, this time with Troy Brown Jr. and C.J. Miles

WASHINGTON -- With their regular-season opener set for Wednesday, the Wizards keep getting positive news with the injuries that have plagued them throughout training camp and the preseason. On Monday, both Troy Brown Jr. and C.J. Miles made their practice debuts and Moe Wagner also practiced after getting hurt in the team's last preseason games.

Brown has been out all of preseason due to a strained left calf. Miles has also missed all of preseason after having surgery on his left foot in July. Wagner has been dealing with a bruised back after a collision with Joel Embiid of the Sixers. It sounds like he could be fully cleared soon.

Head coach Scott Brooks tempered expectations on Brown and Miles, noting they did not participate in a full practice and that the regular season is just two days away.

"They went through parts of practice, but not the meat of it, not the bulk of it. But it's a good step," Brooks said.

When asked if Brown and Miles would play on Wednesday when the Wizards battle the Dallas Mavericks, Brooks said he doesn't "anticipate that happening." But for them to get out there at all is a good sign given they are slated to be the top two small forwards on the roster.

With Brown and Miles likely still out for the opener, Brooks may have to go with a big lineup including Rui Hachimura and Davis Bertans, or with someone with little NBA experience like Isaac Bonga. He had Bonga start in several preseason games with them out.

For Brown, this has been the longest injury absence of his young career. He had never missed this much time previously at any level.

He was just happy to be back on the court Monday, even if he wasn't yet cleared for contact.

"It's just one of those things where I was itching to get back. A lot of time off, it can be good and back. I just tried to use it as a learning lesson," he said. 

Brown and Miles practicing came one day after point guard Isaiah Thomas practiced fully for the first time since his left thumb surgery in September. With so many players out, Brooks wasn't able to get a full read on his new-look roster during the preseason.

But slowly and surely his players are coming back and it may not be long before the Wizards can suit up with the roster they had in mind during the offseason.

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Garrison Mathews is ready to put Lipscomb University on the NBA map

Garrison Mathews is ready to put Lipscomb University on the NBA map

WASHINGTON -- Garrison Mathews, believe it or not, was not always a shooter. He didn't consider himself one in high school or even early in college. But now, at 22 years old, he has a two-way contract with the Wizards and the primary reason is because of his outside shooting.

Mathews, in a sense, has shot his way to the NBA and is now poised to be the first player in the league ever to come from Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tenn.

"It's a crazy experience," Mathews said. "I enjoy being able to put Lipscomb on the map a little bit. Obviously, they haven't had much exposure and they've given me a lot. It's nice helping and giving back in a way."

So, how did we get here? Well, it wasn't always going to be about basketball. Mathews comes from Franklin, Tenn., where high school football is king. Mathews' grandfather was on the 1962 national championship team at Ole Miss. Mathews at one point was on track to follow in those footsteps.

He played wide receiver and tight end in high school and still misses the game.

"There's nothing like it," Mathews said of football.

But as he grew to 6-foot-5 with speed and an improving jumpshot, colleges came calling. And, once they did, Mathews made the difficult decision to focus on basketball full-time. 

Through his early years in college, Mathews realized playing in the NBA was a possiblity. So, he grinded through summers, sharpening his jumper. 

Slowly, but surely, they started falling more consistently.

"I don't know, it just kind of happened that way," Mathews said of becoming known for his shooting.

Mathews shot 34.9 percent from the perimeter his freshman year at Lipscomb. By his senior year, he was making 40.3 percent on eight attempts per game.

And it wasn't just the volume or the percentage that improved, it was the variety of shots he felt confident to even try. If anything has stood out about Mathews so far during his brief tenure with the Wizards, it is his ability to make shots without his feet being set.

Mathews made a shot in a preseason game against the Knicks on Oct. 7 in which his feet were facing the sideline when he caught the ball off a screen. He turned quickly before rising and knocked it down.

Mathews can straighten out his shooting form mid-air and it's something not many players can do. He has worked on it for years.

"There's a lot of times in my workouts where I'm coming off screens or practicing [dribble hand-offs] where I'm coming off a screen and just jumping in the air. That's part of my regiment when I work out," he said.

Mathews has made shots like that consistently in practice, but doing so in a game is a different story. Wizards head coach Scott Brooks has seen plenty of players come along who can't translate what they do in practices to games.

So, he's not ready to crown Mathews as the next J.J. Redick. 

"The percentages will be able to tell us eventually whether those are shots he can make or if we have to have better footwork," Brooks said.

"There's only a few guys that can really square up basically in mid-air and be able to have it. Brad [Beal] has the ability to do that and it took him some time. I don't know if he's one of them, Garrison."

The list of players who make those shots often certainly isn't long. Redick is one, and Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson of the Warriors can certainly be included. Kyle Korver of the Bucks also comes to mind.

Korver, in fact, spent some time with Mathews before the Wizards' game against Milwaukee on Oct. 13. Mathews says he has long been compared to Korver, so he listened intently to what Korver had to say.

"I appreciated that from him. It meant a lot," Mathews said.

"[He told me that] when he practices, when he does individual stuff, he goes as hard as he can. And then he works on his body almost as much as he does on the court."

Mathews is confident, but also realistic. He said he would like to follow Korver's path, but knows he has a long way to go to carve out a career like Korver has.

"I feel like later in my career I can be a little bit like him. Maybe not as great as him because he's a great shooter," Mathews said. "But it's cool being able to guard somebody that a lot of people compare you to when you were growing up."

Mathews has learned through his development as a shooter that hard work can lead to success and sometimes even in ways that are unexpected. Maybe someday he will be in Korver's shoes, offering advice to a young player looking up to him.

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