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.
MORE MYSTICS NEWS: