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Hayes, Dream down Mystics 81-76 for 2-1 series lead

Hayes, Dream down Mystics 81-76 for 2-1 series lead

Tiffany Hayes had 23 points and 11 rebounds and the Atlanta Dream beat the Washington Mystics 81-76 on Friday night to take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five WNBA semifinal series.

Washington played without injured All-Star Elena Delle Donne.

Brittney Sykes scored 17 points, and Elizabeth Williams had 14 for the Dream. Atlanta is one victory away from the franchise's fourth finals appearance and first since 2013.

The lead changed 14 times through three quarters but never in the fourth. Sykes's third 3-pointer of the game gave the Dream their largest lead at 77-66 with 2:38 left. Washington scored the next six points and trailed 79-74 with 35.7 seconds remaining, but would get no closer.

Delle Donne suffered a bone bruise on her left knee in the closing minutes of Tuesday's 78-75 Game 2 loss at Atlanta. Washington's offense labored without its leading scorer. The Mystics shot 36 percent from the field and 5 of 23 on 3-point attempts.

Atlanta entered the final period leading 56-54 and extended the lead to 66-58 on Sykes's 3-pointer with 7:15 remaining.

Kristi Toliver, who joined Delle Donne in the 2018 All-Star game, had seven points on 3 of 15 shooting and missed eight of nine 3-point attempts. Her backcourt partner, Natasha Cloud scored three points.

Aerial Powers came off the bench to lead Washington with a season-high 18 points. Ariel Atkins scored 17 points.

Delle Donne's absence meant both teams played without its best player. The Dream closed out the regular season sans All-Star forward Angel McCoughtry, who suffered a knee injury Aug. 7 against Las Vegas.

TIP-INS

Atlanta led 37-34 at halftime and extended the lead to 48-38 in the third quarter before Washington rallied with a 12-1 run. Toliver hit her first 3-pointer in that second half stretch after starting 0 for 7 and 1 of 11 overall. ... Delle Donne dressed for the game and sat on the bench. She did not walk with a discernible limp, but was deliberate with her gait going to and from the locker room. ... New York Islanders coach Barry Trotz, who directed the Washington Capitals to the 2018 Stanley Cup title, sat courtside.

WHAT'S NEXT

Game 4 is set for Sunday in Washington. Tip time remains unsettled depending on the outcome of Friday's Game 3 in the other semifinal series between Seattle and Phoenix. The No. 1 seed Storm entered the weekend with a 2-0 lead.

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Wizards District Gaming takes JBM with No.1 pick in 2020 NBA 2K League Draft

Wizards District Gaming takes JBM with No.1 pick in 2020 NBA 2K League Draft

Sixty eight gamers' lives changed on Saturday night. 

One of those very lucky individuals was Jack Mascone, who was selected by Wizards District Gaming with the No.1 overall pick in the 2020 NBA 2K League Draft. 

Wizards’ managing partner Ted Leonsis had a special message for the point guard from New York, who joins the Monumental Sports & Entertainment family. 

“On behalf of the Wizards, Mystics and Go-Go we’d like to welcome JBM to the Monumental basketball family. Congratulations on your hard work paying off. We’re excited to have you run the District with us,” Leonsis said.

Wizards District Gaming also drafted small forward Justin Howell in the second round, No. 30 overall, small forward Antonio Newman, No. 37, and utility Brandon Richardson at No. 51 in the third round. 

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Rui Hachimura's learning curve can be seen on offense late in games

Rui Hachimura's learning curve can be seen on offense late in games

WASHINGTON -- Wizards forward Rui Hachimura has translated so smoothly to the NBA level that it is easy to forget he is still just a rookie with only 31 games under his belt. For a reminder of his inexperience, just look at the fourth quarter.

Hachimura tends to start games hot on the offensive end, like he did on Friday in the Wizards' loss to the Cavaliers when he had eight points by the end of the first quarter. But he scored only nine points after that and went scoreless through seven minutes in the fourth.

That has been a consistent theme for him this season. He averages 4.8 points in the first quarter shooting 48.4 percent from the field, 4.0 points in the second shooting 57 percent and then 4.3 points on 47.9 percent in the third. In the fourth quarter those numbers plummet to 1.9 points on average and 33.3 percent shooting.

Basically, Hachimura often comes out on fire but then slows down considerably once opponents make midgame changes. Against the Cavs, Hachimura said it was because they disrupted passing lanes.

"They are an NBA team. They just adjusted. They didn't want me to catch the ball. They didn't let me just catch the ball. I think that's why," he said.

The Wizards have seen teams switch defensive match-ups midgame to counter Hachimura. Sometimes taking away his midrange jumper will be prioritized. The Cavs seemed to find success playing Hachimura more physically in the second half, bumping him away from his comfort zones.

Over time, Hachimura can improve his ability to sustain scoring throughout games simply by becoming more versatile. The more consistent he becomes at making three-point shots and creating off the dribble, the more difficult it will be for teams to stop him. As long as he keeps improving, he will reach a point where he can stay ahead of the defense with a multitude of counters.

Developing a more reliable outside game and more dribble combinations will take some time. For now, Hachimura believes the key to him keeping up his scoring pace involves working with his teammates, particularly star shooting guard Bradley Beal.

"I just gotta connect more with Brad. Brad is the one everybody is trying to guard. Screens and pick-and-rolls with him, that kind of stuff will help me," Hachimura said.

Hachimura's game against the Cavaliers reflected how the team played overall. After scoring 41 points in the first quarter, they managed only 42 in the second half. They blew a 16-point lead and lost, 113-108.

So, he wasn't alone. And those rooting for Hachimura to round out his game should feel good about his odds. He has a relentless work ethic and is often staying after practice to go over film with player development coach Dave Adkins.

Hachimura is perceptive and driven to improve. In order to take the next step as a scorer, he will have to get better at closing games.

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