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Mystics ‘Run it back,’ cap dominant season with first WNBA Championship

Mystics ‘Run it back,’ cap dominant season with first WNBA Championship

It started with acquiring a generational talent. Then, a push for a championship gave the team a taste at what they were capable of achieving. A slogan arose from the ashes of a championship loss: “Run it Back.” That slogan guided them throughout a dominant season that took no prisoners.

And that's how the Mystics story will go. For the first time in their history, the Washington Mystics are WNBA champions. 

Their quest for a title was not all smooth sailing, although the most efficient offense in WNBA history made it look like it at times. Three separate injuries hindered their superstar Elena Delle Donne. A jammed left knee (the same knee that suffered a brutal-looking fall in 2018), breaking her nose in the middle of the year, and a herniated disc in her back during the WNBA Finals all provided setbacks for the WNBA MVP. 

Former All-Star Emma Meesseman missed 11 games to play for the Belgian National Team, nearly a third of the season. Every Mystic had deemed her the "missing piece" from the 2018 runner-up squad. A Delle Donne-esque player that has the lethal ability to take over contests. She missed all of 2018, she missed a huge chunk of the beginning of the season. 

Veteran point guard Kristi Toliver was sidelined for the final month of the season. Natasha Cloud was essentially the only true point guard in the rotation for 10 games. 

You wouldn’t know it based on the Mystics relentless supremacy throughout the season. There were a WNBA-record 13 victories by 20 points or more and eight victories by at least 25 points (another record). An average win margin of 19.5 points had Washington coasting to a franchise-best 26-8 record.

And 19.5 doesn't even begin to tell the tale. They throttled the No. 2 team, the Connecticut Sun by 43 points, beat the Las Vegas Aces by 29.

Through the injuries, Delle Donne averaged 19.5 points and 8.3 rebounds. She became a member of the elite 50-40-90 club, the first WNBA player to do so. Unsurprisingly, she won the WNBA MVP.

Without their Belgian forward, Washington went 7-4. 

Toliver, one of the best 3-point shooters in the WNBA’s history, was sidelined and the Mystics broke the record for most 3-pointers made in a game. 

No obstacle could stand in the team’s way.

That energy carried into the postseason as the No. 1 seed. Aside from a Liz Cambage-led Aces Game 3, the WNBA Semifinals was dominated by Washington. Dominated by Meesseman.

In the Finals, Delle Donne’s back could have slowed them down. It didn’t. And it certainly didn’t slow down Delle Donne from claiming her first title. 

Washington was built to win a championship, from Delle Donne on down. They have the best player in the league. Their starting five has no weak spot, littered with future All-Stars. Washington’s bench could all be starters elsewhere in the league. Instead, they stayed together and knew what this roster could accomplish.

For this season, the only thing that was on the minds of players was to ‘Run it Back.’ Nothing could stand in their way of achieving that goal. From Day 1 and for every subsequent day, that foresight was never lost. All their cards were on the table, Mike Thibault and his staff were not afraid to show it. 

Even facing a winner-take-all Game 5, Natasha Cloud had no doubt and guaranteed a championship. 

She's right. Straight facts.

The Mystics ran it back for their first WNBA championship. 

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Celtics resting all of their best players offers Wizards good chance for first win in final bubble game

Celtics resting all of their best players offers Wizards good chance for first win in final bubble game

It has been five months since the Wizards last won a game and it could be another four months until they have another chance. They enter Thursday's season finale against the Boston Celtics (12 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington) having lost all 10 of their games in the NBA's restart bubble, though technically only seven of them count.

That leaves Thursday's game with some relatively high stakes. The Wizards are trying to avoid leaving Disney World winless.

The good news is that the Boston Celtics see nothing to play for, so they are resting basically all of their best players. Their injury report reads like a starting lineup.

Out are Kemba Walker, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Gordon Hayward, Marcus Smart and Daniel Theis. Brown, Hayward and Smart are listed as out due to rest. The others have minor injuries. 

That could create an opening for the Wizards, who have yet to take advantage of the few breaks offered by their seeding game schedule. They lost to the Suns back before Phoenix became the surprise team of the bubble. They also lost to the Brooklyn Nets with most of their roster missing and then again to the Pacers who were without Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis.

On Tuesday, they fell to the Bucks who were missing Eric Bledsoe and Khris Middleton and saw Giannis Antetokounmpo ejected in the first half. The Wizards' lack of winning experience due to their very young roster has proven too much to overcome.

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Maybe that will change on Thursday as the Wizards sense their final opportunity for a win before they get on a flight and head back to Washington to begin their offseason. They will see a Celtics team whose top remaining scorer is Enes Kanter, who averages 8.1 points per game.

Boston is one of the best teams in the NBA when healthy. They have the third-best record in the East and rank top-four in both offensive and defensive efficiency.

And they still have one of their most valuable assets: head coach Brad Stevens. He happened to get a contract extension on Wednesday.

The odds might actually be in the Wizards' favor despite the fact they are missing Bradley Beal, John Wall and Davis Bertans. We'll see if they can take advantage.

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Report: Giannis Antetokounmpo suspended one game by NBA for headbutting Moe Wagner

Report: Giannis Antetokounmpo suspended one game by NBA for headbutting Moe Wagner

Wizards head coach Scott Brooks predicted that Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo would be suspended by the NBA for headbutting Moe Wagner in Tuesday night's game, and that is exactly what has happened.

Antetokounmpo will be banned for one game as the Bucks close out the regular season on Thursday against the Memphis Grizzlies. The Bucks will begin their postseason run after that as the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference.

Antetokounmpo and Wagner got into it in the first half after Wagner took a charge against him. Antetokounmpo approached Wagner after the whistle and lunged forward for the headbutt.

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He was ejected after the referees reviewed the replay. The Bucks still held on to beat the Wizards despite missing the reigning MVP.

Antetokounmpo, 25, is likely to win the MVP award again this year. He finishes his 2019-20 regular season with averages of 29.5 points, 13.6 rebounds and 5.6 assists per game.

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