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Elena Delle Donne's leadership will be needed as Mystics play as favorites in WNBA playoffs

Elena Delle Donne's leadership will be needed as Mystics play as favorites in WNBA playoffs

WASHINGTON -- As Mystics star Elena Delle Donne will tell you, "leaders can come in all shapes and sizes." For her, now a seven-year WNBA veteran and the likely league MVP this season, it can depend on the day.

How she gets her message across to teammates is tailored for the time of need. 

"Some days I need to be a voice and speak up. Some days it's a lead by example-type thing. And then other days it's just my presence and giving everybody confidence," she said.

Not all of that has come naturally. Delle Donne believes her ability to lead "has evolved" throughout her career. 

It hasn't just been about learning to speak up, but when. Sometimes powerful messages can be conveyed by what isn't said.

Delle Donne is definitely a natural at that. She operates with a quiet intensity on the floor. At practice, her desire to improve rubs off on others as she charges through drills and scrimmages as if it were live, game action. It can be seen in her attention to the finer details, like communication on defense.

She leads by example by making the lessons to learn obvious. Teammates can see firsthand what makes her great.

But veteran leadership often calls for moments to speak up. Sometimes a message needs to be delivered from a peer rather than a coach.

Mystics head coach Mike Thibault has seen those skills mature in Delle Donne going back to the start of last season.

"I would say it's evolving," Thibault said. "When she first came here, I think she was a little more quiet, kind of walking on eggshells coming to a new team. I think her and Kristi [Tolliver] were both trying to tiptoe around and see because you don't want to disrupt a new team that you come to. I would say over the last part of last season, the playoffs and this year; she's used her voice and she's opened up."

When Delle Donne expresses her opinions, they carry weight because of her stature in the league as a star player. This season she averaged 19.5 points and 8.2 rebounds while shooting 51.5 percent from the field, 43 percent from three and a delectable 97.4 percent from the free throw line to join the prestigious 50-40-90 club.

But there is also some extra gravity in the fact she doesn't always raise her voice.

"I think if you're overly loud every day, it wears on people. She's learned to pick and choose the times that her teammates need to hear her. I think when she speaks up like that they go 'okay, it must be time,'" Thibault said.

"There are the days where she can raise her voice in a huddle or in a timeout and players know; 'Boy, if she's got something to say that she's mad about, we might want to listen because she doesn't do that every day.'"

Delle Donne, who turned 30 last week, believes in the group the Mystics have assembled. They have championship aspirations and this season for the first time will be playing with the expectations as favorites.

That will require a new challenge for the Mystics, to tune out the noise and not lose their edge by assuming anything before it happens. They are the team everyone wants to beat and they will have to remain sharp during a nine-day layoff between games. Delle Donne will have to help guide them through that. 

She is happy with how the team has responded thus far in securing the No. 1 seed in the playoffs with a 26-8 record. Delle Donne thinks they have handled the pressure well by embracing it and keeping the work they do fun.

"Every day coming here is a lot of fun. Even on off-days, I miss it," she said. "I want to come in and see everybody and get back into the groove. That's when you know you've got a good group."

But the real business end of their season is about to begin on Tuesday when they host a yet-to-be-determined opponent in Game 1 of the WNBA Semifinals. It is a best-of-five game series with the winner advancing to the Finals, where the Mystics fell last season to the Seattle Storm.

This time, they hope to take the next step and win the first title in franchise history. 

"I think pressure can make or break teams and I knew [early on] that this team was ready for the pressure," Delle Donne said.

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Rui Hachmiura takes water break, uses real waterboy in NBA 2K20 Player Tournament victory

Rui Hachmiura takes water break, uses real waterboy in NBA 2K20 Player Tournament victory

He may have not been on an actual basketball court, but Rui Hachimura must have still broken a sweat during his NBA 2K matchup with Donovan Mitchell on Sunday.

He needed a real-life water break - and even had some help from a waterboy.

Hachimura, the 13 seed, took on four-seed Mitchell in the NBA 2K20 Player Tournament, and came out with a 74-71 victory. 

The winner of the tournament receives $100,000 to go to a charity in support of coronavirus relief efforts.

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Wizards continue win streak, beat Pacers in 2K simulation

Wizards continue win streak, beat Pacers in 2K simulation

The Wizards picked up their sixth-straight win in eight games in Sunday night’s NBA 2K simulation, beating the Indiana Pacers 67-51 on the road.  

Bradley Beal wasted no time getting things started, knocking down an early three to put the Wizards on the board.   

Later in the second, Beal proved just how difficult he is to guard. With an assist from Davis Bertans, Beal finished with a huge slam to lift the Wizards over the Pacers 30-28, closing out the half.

Beal finished the game with 23 points in 21 minutes. 

Here’s how the Wizards won: 

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Rui Hachimura shows off

The rookie set the tone with a big alley-oop dunk in the first quarter, extending Washington’s lead by seven. He had 12 points at the end of the first half with 10 in the paint. 

Hachimura came back fueled up in the third, knocking the ball loose from T.J. Warren with a steal and dunk. 

 

Hachimura finished with 20 points, four rebounds and three steals. 

Game of runs 

Washington took advantage of a set pace to take an early lead over Indiana. The Wizards started the game with both a 7-0 and 13-2 run in the first quarter. 

The Pacers used their defense to answer in the second, taking the lead on a 22-6 run before the Wizards followed with a 16-6 run to end the quarter 35-30 at the half.

It got pretty close early in the third when Indiana went on a 9-4 run to cut the lead to 39-38 but the Wizards were able to fully reload going on a 13-2 run.

The Wizards would go on to continue the run to 29-9 later in the fourth to extend the lead to 19 with 35 seconds left.  

Washington had 11 offensive rebounds, nine steals (eight of which came in the second half alone) and 21 assists on 27 made field goals. 

Big man in the paint

Thomas Bryant controlled the boards with 15 rebounds.

The 2K Wizards look to continue their winning streak as they return home to virtually host the Toronto Raptors, the reigning NBA champions on Tuesday night at 7 p.m. 

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