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No matter the obstacles, the Mystics are determined to win their first championship

No matter the obstacles, the Mystics are determined to win their first championship

A year ago the Washington Mystics best chance to win a WNBA title was at the tip of Game 1. The Seattle Storm jumped out to an 11-point lead in the first 10 minutes and did not look back as they cruised to a victory. 

Seattle continued that roll into their next two games. The series ended in favor of the Storm with the sixth three-game sweep in WNBA history. 

A full 365 days and some change have transpired. Washington has 'ran it back' to the WNBA Finals. This time, they're a whole lot closer to the coveted prize.

Washington is one win away from winning their first championship. 

The characters are the same for Washington. Well, kinda. Every notable contributor came back to the team, a lot of them just gaining their first WNBA Finals experience. Even Elena Delle Donne is injured and not 100%, just like last year. Only the noted "missing piece," Emma Meesseman was the difference in the roster. There's a different opponent too, the fellow title-less Connecticut Sun is on the opposite end of the court. 

On Tuesday at 8:00 p.m. ET, the Mystics will get a chance to close out the series as they are up 2-1 in the best-of-five series. 

"We've been in the final series before. So our whole roster is prepared" Natasha Cloud said after Game 1 of this year's Finals. "We got swept last year, but we made a commitment to each other and to this organization that we'd be back."

It's not as easy as outlined for the offensively potent Washington team. As stated Delle Donne is nursing a setback. Game 2 she played less than four minutes. In Game 3 she played for 26 minutes but only as a shell of herself with 13 points on only six shots.

Unlike the previous season though, the team can withstand an injury to their best player. When she is able to make it onto the court, even with an ailing back, it boosts what they're capable of accomplishing. 

"I think any player, when they see [an MVP playing through pain], they say 'well, I can't complain about anything. I've got to play as hard as I can play,'" head coach Mike Thibault said after Game 3. "I think the other thing is it gives them confidence because no matter whether she's limited and whether she can put the ball on the floor and go by anybody, she's such a good shooter."

"She showed a lot of character and showed a lot of heart just being out on the floor today because she's obviously not feeling great," Kristi Toliver said. "She's not in great shape, but it means the world us."

Delle Donne did all she could to put herself in a position to play in Game 3. Struggling to sit, in waves of pain and uncomfortable at all times, Delle Donne is battling once again on the WNBA's biggest stage. To this point in her seven-year career, she has won two MVPs but never claimed a league championship. 

She's not the only one for Washington either. With 43 years of experience on the Mystics, only one player has won a title: Toliver with the Los Angeles Sparks in 2016.

That can change in less than 48 hours after Game 4. If the Mystics perform as they did in Game 3, they will likely be raising the trophy in Connecticut. 

"That kind of effort is what you need to win a championship," Thibault said.

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Wizards release statement on the passing of John Wall's mother

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Wizards release statement on the passing of John Wall's mother

The Washington Wizards announced the passing of John Wall's mother, Frances Pulley on Friday. 

Wall's mother had been battling cancer before her passing. She was 58. 

In a statement on Twitter, the Wizards said, "Sending thoughts and love for John Wall and his family after the passing of his mother, Frances Pulley. She will forever be a part of our #DCFamily."

Zach Leonsis, the senior vice president of strategic initiatives at Monumental Sports & Entertainment, also released a statement

"Thinking of @JohnWall and his family right now. Keeping you guys in our prayers. So terribly sorry for your loss and know that she will be remembered forever. #DCFamily

Wall's Kentucky coach, John Calipari also expressed his condolences for his former star: 

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Bradley Beal sees a young John Wall in the Grizzlies rookie sensation Ja Morant

Bradley Beal sees a young John Wall in the Grizzlies rookie sensation Ja Morant

WASHINGTON -- It is not often you see a rookie find initial success in the NBA to the degree Grizzlies point guard Ja Morant has, already with borderline All-Star numbers at the age of 20. And oftentimes, opponents are careful throwing out player comparisons for guys his age, wanting to see more before they anoint anyone.

Morant, though, is a different case and questions from media members at Wizards practice this week as the team gets set to face him for the first time naturally led to parallels to great players. On Thursday, Brooks brought up unprompted how much Morant reminds him of Russell Westbrook, his former player in Oklahoma City.

And on Friday, Bradley Beal invoked a teammate of his when breaking down what makes Morant so good.

"He loves to get up and down. He's really fast with the ball. It reminds you of John [Wall] in a lot of ways. He plays with his pace," Beal said.

Through 19 games this season, Morant is averaging 18.7 points, 6.4 assists and 1.3 steals per game. He is shooting 42.2 percent from three on 2.2 attempts.

The threes have been surprising to most, as he shot a relatively modest 36.3 percent his final year in college at Murray State. But also surprising maybe just how lethal he has been at attacking the rim.

Sure, that was a big part of his game in college. But this is the NBA where athletes are much bigger and stronger. And he isn't the biggest guy either, weighing in at 175 pounds according to Basketball-Reference.

But despite lacking in size, he has shown an ability to finish through contact rarely seen from any player.

"I think he has a no-fear type of mentality. So, you have to respect his aggressiveness," Beal said. "He'll get respect from a lot of players in the league, a lot of refs in the league because of his aggressiveness and... with all the posters he has. So, he's an assassin. You gotta respect his game."

Beal likely won't draw the defensive assignment on Morant. That will probably go to Ish Smith and back-up point guard Chris Chiozza, who is with the team while Isaiah Thomas recovers from a left calf injury.

Beal knows it is going to be tough for the whole Wizards team to contain Morant. He said the trick will be trying to stay in front of him, though he knows that is easier said than done.

Really, Morant is such a unique player that the Wizards can only gameplan and prepare so much until they actually experience facing him for the first time.

"He's gonna be a handful," Beal said.

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