WASHINGTON -- The Washington Mystics beat the Las Vegas Aces 97-95 in Game 1 of the WNBA Semifinals on Tuesday night. Here are five observations from the game...
1. The Mystics took Step 1 towards what they hope is the first championship in franchise history on Tuesday night, as they held off an Aces team with the size and athleticism to put up a real fight. But Washington's outside shooting and ability to limit mistakes proved too much in the first of a five-game series.
The Mystics made 11 threes compared to the Aces' seven and committed only four turnovers while Las Vegas coughed up 13 of them. Emma Meesseman led the way with 27 points and 10 rebounds, shooting a crisp 12-for-18 from the field. Elena Delle Donne was next with 24 points, six boards and six assists. Natasha Cloud (12 points) was the only other Mystic in double-figures.
Delle Donne made the game-sealing shot, a turnaround fadeaway with 32 seconds to go. That put the Mystics up by four and the Aces couldn't close the gap.
2. Despite having a nine-day layoff between games, it was the Mystics who came out sharp. They made six of their first 10 shots and led 21-10 with just over three minutes to go in the first quarter.
The Aces had played just two days before, yet they took several minutes to get adjusted. The Mystics' quickness gave them trouble, especially on defense where they caught Aces center Liz Cambage (19 points, 12 rebounds) sleeping on a pair of turnovers in the post.
It didn't last long, however. The Aces sped up and got going on the fastbreak. By the end of the first quarter, they were within three points. Though they attempted 13 fewer shots in the first than the Mystics did, they made 73.3 percent of their looks.
3. Speed was the key in Las Vegas' best stretches. In the second quarter, they pushed the pace to outscore Washington 30-20. Kelsey Plum (16 points, nine assists, seven rebounds), the 2018 first overall pick, lit the spark. She made the Mystics pay for not getting back on defense by creating quick opportunities off made baskets.
The Aces were able to turn up the speed when they went small in the second quarter, with the 6-foot-8 Cambage on the bench. A'ja Wilson went to work, scoring eight of her 23 points in the second quarter.
4. Hurting the Mystics in the speed department was the knee injury to All-Star guard Kristi Tolliver. She played for the first time since Aug. 8 and had some rust to shake off.
She wasn't limping, but didn't have her usual quickness. And it seemed like her insertion into the lineup affected the Mystics' rhythm early on, as they hadn't played with her in six weeks. They went 10-1 while she was out, making it a delicate task to bring her back and not disrupt a smooth operation.
From the looks of Tolliver on Tuesday night, it seems like she could be dealing with the injury throughout the playoffs. To remain effective, she will have to lean on her accurate outside shooting and abilities as a distributor.
By the fourth quarter, she did just that. Tolliver got a pair of threes to fall and finished with eight points and four assists in 23 minutes.
5. The Mystics had a lot of support in Game 1. It was a big, energetic crowd that featured a host of their Wizards counterparts. John Wall, Rui Hachimura, Isaiah Thomas, Ish Smith, Thomas Bryant and Justin Robinson were among the players in attendance. General manager Tommy Sheppard was there along with executives Sashi Brown and John Thompson III.
Ted Leonsis wants to see more synergy between his teams under the Monumental Basketball umbrella. Tuesday night was a good example.
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