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Fittingly, the 'missing piece' Emma Meesseman rallies Mystics to WNBA title

Fittingly, the 'missing piece' Emma Meesseman rallies Mystics to WNBA title

WASHINGTON -- Emma Meesseman politely denies it. 

Even when basking in the glory of being named the WNBA Finals MVP, she will not take credit. Even when she is the lone difference in last year’s Mystics team that got swept in the Finals and the team that triumphed in five games this season. 

She’s shot it down ever since it’s been brought up. Her teammates certainly believe it and are quick to tout to anyone that asks. It was even the first thing Mike Thibault said in his post-championship press conference.

No one will ever get her to say – or admit – that she was the Washington Mystics’ “missing piece.”

Washington raising their first WNBA trophy with Meesseman as the most valuable player says otherwise. 

“She was the difference," Kristi Toliver said after calling her the “missing piece” again on Thursday. “The way she played tonight in the moments that she wanted the ball in the biggest moments, and a couple years ago she didn't. And so that's a huge credit to her and her growth as a player and a person. So she was enormous for us.”

Her story has been well-documented. Meesseman, a 2013 first-round draft pick for Washington, missed all of the 2018 season for a personal break from the game. Without her, the Mystics lost in the Finals to the Seattle Storm in three games. 

A year away clearly paid off as she ripped through the playoff competition. During the Finals, she averaged 17.8 points while shooting 57.1% from the field and 50% from behind the arc en route to the MVP award. Every game she came off of the bench. Every game she delivered double-digit scoring as well as providing some great defensive help in the post against the taller Connecticut Sun.  

Nicknamed “Playoff Emma,” the forward led the team in scoring in five of their nine playoff games. With the regular season MVP Elena Delle Donne hamstrung by a back injury, Meesseman was the one that stepped up to get the team their elusive championship.

That was no different in the deciding Game 5 against the Connecticut Sun. 

Shots were not falling for Washington. From the field, behind the arc, everyone was struggling. It was so bad Delle Donne couldn’t even hit a technical free throw. Washington was quickly down by nine. Immediately when she checked in during the second half Meesseman took over. 

In a six-minute span, the Belgian scored 11 points, all within the confines of the 3-point arc. A turnaround fading-away bank shot, a turnaround jumper with multiple ball fakes, a finger-roll drive to the cup, a standard pull-up jumper and three free throws got it down. She whipped out her entire arsenal, except her long-range game. 

By the time Connecticut realized they had poor Brionna Jones, who had only played 10 minutes in the series before Game 5, matched up against Meesseman, it was too late. 

“I just really, really wanted to win this game, so I just came on the court, and I knew that it was a moment that we needed some energy,” Meesseman said on her third-quarter performance. “I was just going at the basket, and it was going in, so I just kept going. Coach has been talking about, if your shot is going in, or even if not, you just have to take your opportunity.”

Meesseman finished the contest with a team-high 22 points. 

This year she took that opportunity by the horns. Never did Meesseman shy away from the moment. Fittingly it was the “missing piece” that was the one who pulled together a record-breaking season into the franchise’s first title. 

Sure, this title will be remembered as the first for several parties - Thibault, Delle Donne, Cloud among others. They "ran it back," smashing records in the process and are one of the few record-breaking teams to culminate their season with a  championship. It was the first for the franchise, christening the new Entertainment and Sports Arena.

But when the confetti is all swept away, never forget the importance of Emma Meesseman. 

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How to Watch Wizards vs. Raptors NBA 2K20 simulation and John Wall's showdown with LeBron's Lakers

How to Watch Wizards vs. Raptors NBA 2K20 simulation and John Wall's showdown with LeBron's Lakers

The Wizards were scheduled to host the Toronto Raptors, the reigning NBA champions, on Tuesday night. Instead, the NBA season remains on a break as the world continues to navigate through the coronavirus pandemic. 

Instead of letting the game go without a result, NBC Sports Washington is airing an NBA 2K20 simulation. Tuesday's installment is the latest in the NBA 2K20 simulation series, which is essentially two computers controlling the video game's results and includes commentary from the team of Wizards' analysts.

Before the break, the Raptors staked their claim as the eastern conference's second-best team — sitting only behind the NBA-leading Milwaukee Bucks. 

Whether it's real or virtual, Toronto has a formidable squad loaded with scorers. Before the NBA suspended its season, Toronto had six double-digit scorers, led by Pascal Siakam's 23.6 points per night. 

After the simulation, stick around to watch John Wall's 40-point, 14-assist performance to down Lebron James and the Los Angeles Lakers by 18 points in December 2018. 

When:

Tuesday, April 7 at 7 p.m. ET

Where:

  • NBC Sports Washington (channel finder
  • Any of our 24/7 authenticated streaming platforms
  • Monumental Sports Network via its website www.monumentalsportsnetwork.com or via any of its available apps on iOS, Android, Roku, Apple TV, Fire TV, and Xbox.

Broadcast schedule

7:00 PM: NBA2K Simulation: Toronto Raptors @ Wizards (P)

8:00 PM: NBA Classics: Los Angeles Lakers @ Wizards (R)

10:30 PM: NBA2K Simulation: Toronto Raptors @ Wizards (R)

CLICK HERE TO SUBSCRIBE TO THE WIZARDS TALK PODCAST

Starting lineups

The nice part about this is we don't have to wait as long to know the starting lineups. Just don't tell the 2K computer. 

Wizards
PG - Shabazz Napier
SG - Bradley Beal
SF - Troy Brown Jr.
PF - Rui Hachimura
C - Moe Wagner

Raptors
PG - Kyle Lowry
SG - Fred VanVleet
SF - Norman Powell
PF - Pascal Siakam
C - Marc Gasol

If you miss watching the Wizards and NBA as much as we do, NBC Sports Washington is your can't-miss channel to get through this basketball hiatus.

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On this date in tournament history: Chris Webber calls timeout

On this date in tournament history: Chris Webber calls timeout

The Michigan Wolverines were down two points to the North Carolina Tar Heels with 19 seconds to play in regulation in the second half of the 1993 NCAA National Championship game.

After grabbing the rebound off the missed free throw attempt, Michigan star Chris Webber (23 points, 11 rebounds) established his pivot foot, re-angling his body towards the basket, locked in a one-possession game with the championship on the line. 

Webber attempted to dish the ball off to a teammate, but after seeing a lurking Tar Heel, the future No. 1 pick continued his dribble towards halfcourt. 

The travel call was missed by the officiating staff, but not by the broadcast crew.

"Oh, he walked," Bill Packer exclaimed on the broadcast. "He walked and the referee missed it!"

CBS announcer Jim Nance continued on with the gameplay, as only 12 seconds remained on the clock in regulation.

"Webber brings it into the frontcourt," Nantz said. "They have no timeouts remaining."

If only someone had told him.

Webber, trapped in the left corner by a UNC double-team, signaled for time, resulting in a technical foul shot for the Tar Heels as well as possession.

"He called a timeout," Nantz said. "Michigan doesn't have any!"

At the opposing foul line, UNC's Donald Williams (25 points) knocked down both free throws, increasing their lead to four points with 11 seconds remaining. 

From there it was all over.

North Carolina 77, Michigan 71.

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