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Still winless without Elena Delle Donne, Mystics fall to league-leading Aces

Still winless without Elena Delle Donne, Mystics fall to league-leading Aces

WASHINGTON – When Elena Delle Donne is on the court the Washington Mystics are one of the best teams in the WNBA. When she doesn’t play, the Mystics look lost and struggle to keep the contests close. Unfortunately for Washington, they were without the former WNBA MVP on Saturday, yielding an 85-81 loss to the Las Vegas Aces.  

With the absence of Delle Donne because of a broken nose, the Aces (11-5) pounded the paint in a game between the league’s two best teams. Forty-four points came in the paint for the Aces, compared to the Mystics’ 30, a far contrast from Washington's style of basketball.

Recent All-Star selections A’ja Wilson (17 points) and Liz Cambage (13 points) commanded the lanes on both the offensive and defensive ends. Combined with forward Kayla McBride, those three scored 46 of the team’s 85 points. Las Vegas also added 21 points from the charity stripe, preventing the game from becoming a barnburner in front of a sellout crowd of 4,200. 

Paired with Sydney Colson’s 17 off the Las Vegas bench, the Aces methodically erased a 15-point deficit the Mystics (9-6) built in the first quarter. 

In fact, the best part of the night for the Mystics was right after everything went wrong on their home court at the Entertainment and Sports Arena. A clock malfunction delayed the start of the contest by 20 minutes. It was yet another crazy quirk of the history of these two teams. 

Once the game got underway the Mystics came out firing. Flying up and down the court, Washington did not let the stoppage deter their success. The Aces were not so lucky and started the game 1-for-9 from the field and eventually found themselves down 22-7. 

“[It’s] always something with Vegas. Oh my God. We can’t ever just play a normal game with Vegas,” Natasha Cloud told reporters postgame. “For us as professional athletes, it is hard to sit there and be waiting, but you know we all focus. We all do different things … I like to dance to stay loose and not get tight.”

All five starters for the Mystics reached double figures without Delle Donne. Replacing the All-Star captain was Emma Meesseman who just finished playing with the Belgian National Team at the EuroBasket tournament. It is the second time the 6-4 forward started for an injured Delle Donne this season. Meesseman had 15 points and Cloud led all scorers with 18 points. 

Without Delle Donne, the Mystics are 0-3 this season. Essentially 0-4 because she only played one minute in the loss to the Los Angeles Sparks. Saturday was the second straight game that she had missed. 

Since she joined the team in 2017, the Mystics are 6-11 without her and 49-31 when she plays. 

“We’re being held kind of together by baling wire right now,” head coach Mike Thibault said postgame.

Combined with Delle Donne’s injury, Meesseman was sick and Latoya Sanders and Tianna Hawkins both played through minor injuries. It does not make things any easier when they are playing their four games in nine days with two of those being on the West Coast. 

With the loss, Washington has now lost a season-high three games in a row. At home, they’ve lost three of their last four. Fortunately, they get a chance to rest and heal some of those nagging injuries. They get six days off for only the second time in the first half of the season before playing the Indiana Fever on Friday.

“Luckily, we have some time to kind of regroup," Thibault said. "Three games left before the All-Star Break. I told them, you know, ‘get the next couple of days off, get your bodies feeling better and come back in here on Tuesday and get ready for Indiana.”

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A comprehensive timeline of Isaiah Thomas' injury history

A comprehensive timeline of Isaiah Thomas' injury history

Isaiah Thomas is out for six to eight weeks after undergoing successful surgery on his radial collateral ligament in his left thumb Wednesday.

His absence will leave the Wizards perilously thin at point guard heading into the season.

“This was an unfortunate setback for Isaiah, but with his resolve and the top care he will receive from our medical team, we expect him to make a full recovery,” Wizards General Manager Tommy Sheppard said in a release. “In the meantime, he will continue to mentor our young guards and have a positive impact on the team as we start training camp.”

Thomas' thumb issue is the latest in a long line of injuries that have caused him to miss time during his nine-year NBA career.

Here's a list of injuries that Isaiah Thomas has sustained during his playing career:

April 2013 — A quadriceps contusion kept Thomas out for 10 games, the first time in his career he was sidelined with an injury.

Aug. 14, 2014 — Thomas underwent arthroscopic wrist surgery during the offseason to fix an issue he'd been dealing with since the prior season.

Nov. - Dec. 2014 — Thomas sprained his ankle while with the Phoenix Suns. The Suns went 3-5 in his absence.

March 9, 2015 — Thomas, after moving to the Celtics, missed eight games with a lower back injury. Boston went 5-3 while Thomas was sidelined. 

Dec. 2016 — In the next season, still with the Celtics, a groin strain kept Thomas out for four games.

March 16, 2017 — Later that same season, a knee bruise sidelined Thomas for two more games.

May 4, 2017 — During the playoffs, Thomas had his tooth knocked out in the middle of a game. He didn't miss any time, but it's impossible to make this list without including that incident.

May 20, 2017 — Two weeks later, a hip injury kept him out for the rest of the Celtics' playoff run.

Sept. 7, 2017 — After being traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Cavs' medical staff had questions about the health of Thomas' hip. To complete the deal, the Celtics sent another second-round draft pick via the Miami Heat to the Cavaliers. Lingering hip issues would keep Thomas out until Jan. 6, 2018.

March 29, 2018 — Thomas was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers in early February, only to undergo arthroscopic surgery on his right hip at the end of March. With a projected four-month recovery time, he was done for the season.

Sept. 18, 2019 — Thomas finished the 2018 season with the Denver Nuggets and signed with the Wizards in July of 2019. On Sept. 16, he injured his left thumb in team workouts. On Sept. 18, the team announced he'd undergone successful surgery and would be out for six to eight weeks.

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Isaiah Thomas injury puts Wizards in tenuous spot at point guard position

Isaiah Thomas injury puts Wizards in tenuous spot at point guard position

The Wizards were already walking a tightrope with their point guard situation when news broke Wednesday that Isaiah Thomas will miss the next six-to-eight weeks after undergoing surgery to repair a ligament in his left thumb. Now with Thomas out, they are perilously thin at an important position.

Thomas will miss all of training camp, the preseason and possibly several weeks of the regular season. That leaves Ish Smith as the de facto starter with a host of non-ideal options behind him.

The No. 2 point guard for now will be left for undrafted rookie Justin Robinson, 19-year-old Isaac Bonga or someone like Troy Brown Jr. or Jordan McRae, both of whom the Wizards would prefer to see play other roles. Bradley Beal will also see time on the ball, according to someone familiar with their plans.

This is all in the context of John Wall's ruptured Achilles surgery that could keep him sidelined for all of the 2019-20 season. With Wall out for several months at a minimum, the Wizards have major questions at his position.

The positive news, if you're looking for some, is that Thomas didn't reinjure his hip. This is a new injury, albeit one to his shooting hand. It is also something that likely won't affect them far into the regular season. 

Thomas was also not going to play a ton in the preseason. The Wizards had plans to limit his minutes as a veteran with a detailed injury history.

But with their current point guard crop, they can ill-afford any injuries at all. They were already taking a risk on Thomas after he played only 12 games last season.

It's worth noting the Wizards opted to go with Smith and Thomas in the offseason instead of re-signing point guard Tomas Satoransky, who left in free agency for the Chicago Bulls. They instead spent that money on Smith and Thomas.

Despite their current issues at point guard, the Wizards do not have plans to bring in significant reinforcements, according to a source. They did, though, recently add Chris Chiozza as a camp invite, NBC Sports Washington was told. He spent time with the Wizards and Rockets last season.

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