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Jabari Parker and Bobby Portis get revenge on their former team as the Wizards blitz the Bulls

Jabari Parker and Bobby Portis get revenge on their former team as the Wizards blitz the Bulls

The Washington Wizards beat the Chicago Bulls 134-125 on Saturday night. Here are five observations from the game...

1. So, the new-look Wizards might be kind of fun.

For the second straight night, they blasted an opponent with a balanced scoring effort, lots of dunks and Bobby Portis screams into the crowd.

Things, of course, won’t always be this easy. They just beat up on the Bulls one night after smashing the Cavs. Those two teams place among the four-worst records in all the NBA.

The road will get a bit tougher on Monday against the Pistons and then extremely difficult on Wednesday in Toronto in their final game before the All-Star break. 

But the early returns on the Wizards after their pair of trades on Wednesday are good. They play hard, they can score and they at least have enough to win against the bad teams.

The two straight wins follow a stretch of five losses in six games. The Wizards are 10th in the conference with a shot at the 9th-place team, Detroit, up next. At 24-32, Washington is two and a half games behind the 8th-place Miami Heat, who play the Warriors on Sunday.

2. Friday was Portis’ time to shine. On Saturday, it was all about Jabari Parker.

The new Wizards forward had a classic revenge game, tormenting his former team to the tune of 20 points on 9-for-15 shooting. He also added six assists, five rebounds, two blocks and a steal.

Parker clearly had an ax to grind coming into this game based on his comments the day before about his frustration with the Bulls coaching staff. And his quest for vengeance seemed to translate in a variety of powerful dunks. He wasn’t just there to score. He was there to punish the rim.

Parker led a huge effort from the Wizards bench. They scored 64 points compared to 38 for the Bulls reserves. Chasson Randle pitched in with a career-high 20 points.

The Wizards gave up a good player in Otto Porter Jr., but already it’s clear how they improved their depth in this week’s trades. They basically got three players for one in their rotation since Markieff Morris hadn’t played in weeks due to injury.

3. As expected, it was strange to see Porter in a Bulls jersey going up against his former Wizards teammates.  What was unexpected was some of the plays he made.

Porter came out with some extra zip in the first quarter. He was more aggressive than we are used to seeing him, attacking the rim and finishing through traffic. 

Porter ended up with 17 points and two steals. As much as there is to like about the Wizards’ side of the trade – they got two nice players and some much-needed financial flexibility – the Bulls did well for themselves. He is a nice fit with what they are building.

Porter is a good veteran complement to Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr. Add in whomever they get with their 2019 first round pick, which should be a top selection, and they will have a solid group to build around. 

Porter’s contract was a problem in Washington, but they can manage it in Chicago with young players who have yet to break the bank.

4. The Wizards had their best offensive first half in over a decade. They dropped 76 points against the Bulls, their most in a first half since 2006, back when Gilbert Arenas, Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison were lighting it up in the good old days.

The Wizards shot 57.1 percent overall in the first half and 10-for-18 from three. Their bench outdid that of the Bulls, 35-15. They blitzed them in the second quarter with 42 points.

It has helped the Wizards played Cleveland on Friday and then the Bulls, but their new-look roster has already shown some serious offensive potential. Everyone knows Parker can score and both Portis and Wes Johnson can stretch the floor.

5. There is a new Wizards injury to monitor as Jeff Green did not return after halftime with tightness in his left hip. He was replaced by Parker in the lineup to begin the third quarter.

Green can be added to the Wizards’ list of injuries that includes Troy Brown Jr., who is not expected to return until after the All-Star break due to his left ankle sprain. Then, of course, there is John Wall who is out for the year and Dwight Howard, who does not appear close to returning.


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Elena Delle Donne thanks makers of face mask, knee brace after 2nd MVP honors

Elena Delle Donne thanks makers of face mask, knee brace after 2nd MVP honors

Most MVP award winners thank coaches, parents and anyone who helped them become great. Elena Delle Donne is not most people.

The Washington Mystic's superstar forward had a lot to be thankful for after receiving the second MVP honors of her career, creating a long list on Twitter. Some injury-preventing accessory manufacturers made their way high up on her list.

Delle Donne became the first woman player to shoot 50/40/90 splits over the course of an entire WNBA season this year, but she was perhaps more grateful for the apparrel that allowed her to stay on the court: her knee brace and face mask. 

The Delaware native often deflects praise onto her teammates and coaches when receiving accolades, but when EDD's knee is being held together by her bulky brace and her nose is feeling protected after a fracture earlier in the season, they definitely deserve the thanks. 

She had a gruesome knee scare in a Game 2 loss to the Atlanta Dream in the playoffs last season, and even missed some early season games this year in recovery. Still, Delle Donne wouldn't let her knee keep her out of action, as her 31 regular season starts were the most games she's played since 2015. It's been evident she's had an edge all season to help her Washington Mystics get back to the Finals, and this time finish the job. 

Delle Donne's face mask has also been somewhat of a fashion trend in recent weeks with star athletes around the District. Wizards all-star guards John Wall and Bradley Beal along with Redskins runing back Derrius Guice, all wore the face masks in solidarity when they came to support the Mystics at the Entertainment and Sports Arena. 

Despite Delle Donne's nose having been fully recovered, she's kept the face mask on during games for style and reassurance. Considering these ailments, it's impressive Delle Donne's shooting touch not only hasn't been affected, but instead has improved. 

After a Game 2 win over the Las Vegas Aces, Delle Donne and Co. have the opportunity to make their season mantra come true and #RunItBack to a second straight WNBA Finals appearance. 


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The Las Vegas Aces have no answer for the Mystics ‘missing piece’ Emma Meesseman

The Las Vegas Aces have no answer for the Mystics ‘missing piece’ Emma Meesseman

WASHINGTON – A year ago the Washington Mystics made it to the WNBA Finals for the first time in franchise history. Top-to-bottom they were a loaded team that finally made the jump led by one of the most talented women’s basketball players in the world in Elena Delle Donne. 

But Delle Donne was hindered, battling through a knee injury throughout the entire playoffs. There was no one to give her relief, which resulted in the Seattle Storm sweeping the Mystics in the Finals. 

A full 365 days and some change have passed. Nearly everyone returned to the Mystics for another go at a championship. The younger players added a year of experience. Expectations are just as high. This year though they believe that they already have what it takes to win a championship; Emma Meesseman came back to the team.

“Emma is the missing piece for us,” Natasha Cloud said after Game 2. “From last year’s to this year’s team she the difference-maker in making us a championship team. She’s putting us on her back… Emma is an All-Star of her own. I’m extremely proud of the player she’s grown into.”

The first leg of the WNBA Semifinals against the Las Vegas Aces in Washington saw different ways Meesseman can be the reason why the Mystics lift the trophy at the end of the season. 

Game 1 she led all scorers with a season-high 27 points. Thirteen of those came in a 26-point third quarter that erased a seven-point lead for Las Vegas. Her explosion allowed the Mystics to surge back into the game. Complementary to Delle Donne’s 25 points, they were a dynamic duo. Las Vegas couldn’t hone in on one of them when they were both on the court. Washington won by two.

Game 2 the Belgian matched that performance. Meesseman tied a career-high with 30 points going 11-for-19 from the field and 5-for-7 from 3-point range. A majority of those (22) came in the second and third quarters to take firm control of the game. Each time the Aces attempted to come back, Meesseman would hit another dagger. Washington won by 12.

“She ain’t missing any shots. That’s the main thing,” Aces’ Liz Cambage said on how they’ve been unable to stop Meesseman. “She came out tonight – [the Mystics] all shot so well tonight.”

Put her in the paint and the flex player posted up and drove against the 6-8 Cambage, or forced her out to clear the lane for other Mystics. Stretch Meesseman out to the arc and she knocked down threes over shorter guards. She’s a Swiss army knife for the Mystics, versatility that is similar to the 2019 MVP Delle Donne.

That comparison is drawn from her own teammates, including Cloud. One that Meesseman believes to be a big honor.

Last year Meesseman missed the season to take a break and work on her game. She was winded after the 2017 season and the toll that it took on her. While away from the WNBA, a lot of her time on the court was with the Belgium national team. There she had to be the team's primary scorer. 

This year in Washington, she’s applied that mentality and aggressiveness to her play. While she’s come off the bench for essentially the whole season, Meesseman has been a huge asset. Now, she’s starting with a big line-up for Washington.

“You can’t just have one or two [go-to players]. We need three or four to win a championship and [Messeeman has] embraced that this last part of the season,” Mystics head coach Mike Thibault said. “She was aggressive, she was looking for the ball, just there is a whole different body language to her about this right now.”

Only twice this season had the 6-4 forward reached 20 points for the Mystics. One was in the penultimate game in the regular season. Granted, she missed 11 games for her national team obligations, but it has been rare to see this explosion. 

"Emma has got a chip on her shoulder. She clearly was watching last year and wasn't happy with the result,” Delle Donne told NBC Sports Washington's Chris Miller. “Emma is playing unreal basketball. She is so good, one of the greatest in the world. To add a piece like that and for her to step up like this has been so big for us."

But Meesseman doesn’t see herself as being the difference-maker. She’s just playing basketball and trying to contribute to an already established championship-level team. 

During Game 1’s postgame press conference Meesseman shut down being labeled as the “missing piece.”

“I’m not sure I agree with that-“ 

“Emma, stop it,” Delle Donne said. “We didn’t win Emma. We need you. I’ll take your 27 and 10 any night.”

She still isn't embracing that title after Game 2. Although if you ask the rest of the Mystics, Meesseman is alone in that regard.

Whether she likes it or not, Meesseman is the clear difference in the Mystics roster as opposed to the team that fell short in the WNBA Finals. When league historians look back at the 2018 and 2019 Mystics teams, she will stick out. 

The only question is will the “missing piece” push the Mystics to where they want to go.