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Wizards suffer loss to Pistons that will be costly in the playoff race

Wizards suffer loss to Pistons that will be costly in the playoff race

The Washington Wizards lost to the Detroit Pistons 121-112 on Monday night. Here are five observations from the game...

1. There have been a few losses along the way this season that stand out among the others as crushing for the Wizards' playoff hopes.

Okay, maybe there have been a lot more than just a few, but Monday can certainly be added to the list.

It wasn’t that they lost to a bad team, Detroit is no worse than mediocre. It was the stakes that were on the line.  

The Pistons took the head-to-head season series and therefore earned the playoff tiebreaker between the teams. It was Detroit’s fourth straight win and they now lead by the Wizards by three games in the standings.

The Wizards just can’t solve their problems on the road. They are now 7-22 away from Capital One Arena. Only the Cavs and Knicks have been worse in away games among Eastern Conference teams.

Just when it looks like the Wizards are turning a corner, they don't. This game was yet another example.

2. Chasson Randle got the start at point guard as Tomas Satoransky was out due to personal reasons. The team didn’t specify, but his wife had been expecting their first child.

With John Wall already out, the Wizards were left very thin at the point. Jordan McRae became the back-up and played well, but this is a game where they could have used Troy Brown Jr. 

The rookie remains out due to a left ankle sprain, one that head coach Scott Brooks said last week will keep him out until after the All-Star break.

3. The door opening for McRae worked out well for the Wizards because it was one of those nights where he provided instant offense off the bench.

McRae erupted for 10 points in his first eight minutes in the first half on 5-for-7 from the field, again showing a diverse skillset around the rim. He slowed down after that and ended up with 10 points and four assists in 19 minutes, but his initial burst helped the Wizards climb back after an early deficit.

McRae has great touch on layups and can score with both hands. When he first signed with the Wizards, it stood out that he had recorded a 7-1 wingspan at the 2014 NBA Combine. While usually that helps guys on defense, he uses his length to score. He can get to the rim quickly without jumping very high because of his reach.

The Wizards, by the way, have less than two weeks now before they will have to decide on McRae’s contract, per the NBA’s rules for two-way deals. He is creeping up on the 45-day limit. If he gets there by the end of the G-League season, the Wizards will have to either sign him to a guaranteed NBA deal or let him go elsewhere.

4. The offensive impact we saw from Jabari Parker through his first two games with the Wizards was not there on Monday night. He went ice cold as a scorer and didn’t create for others as he did against the Cavs and Bulls.

Parker was held to zero points in 20 minutes, and it wasn’t just the numbers. He didn’t have the same aggression either on catch-and-gos in the halfcourt or in transition. Parker did a great job in the first two games with bringing the ball up on fast breaks as a point forward. He didn’t do it in this one.

Parker had a few passes that went to no one. He was just off and didn’t seem nearly as engaged as has otherwise been for Washington.

5. The Wizards had some serious trouble with the Pistons vaunted frontcourt of Andre Drummond and Blake Griffin. Drummond put up 32 points, 17 rebounds, and four steals, while Griffin had 31 points, nine boards and nine assists.

Drummond had 17 points and 11 boards in 17 minutes by halftime. Griffin had 20 points at the break.

They helped lead a dominant effort for Detroit in the middle. The Pistons out-did the Wizards 56-40 in paint points and 48-37 in rebounds. That forced Brooks to make an adjustment by basically pulling Thomas Bryant in favor of Portis. Bryant only played 16 minutes, though he had eight points and eight rebounds.

Jeff Green also came up short. He had only four points and one rebound.

The Wizards had no answer for the Pistons' biggest strength.


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Elena Delle Donne thanks makers of face mask, knee brace after 2nd MVP honors

Elena Delle Donne thanks makers of face mask, knee brace after 2nd MVP honors

Most MVP award winners thank coaches, parents and anyone who helped them become great. Elena Delle Donne is not most people.

The Washington Mystic's superstar forward had a lot to be thankful for after receiving the second MVP honors of her career, creating a long list on Twitter. Some injury-preventing accessory manufacturers made their way high up on her list.

Delle Donne became the first woman player to shoot 50/40/90 splits over the course of an entire WNBA season this year, but she was perhaps more grateful for the apparrel that allowed her to stay on the court: her knee brace and face mask. 

The Delaware native often deflects praise onto her teammates and coaches when receiving accolades, but when EDD's knee is being held together by her bulky brace and her nose is feeling protected after a fracture earlier in the season, they definitely deserve the thanks. 

She had a gruesome knee scare in a Game 2 loss to the Atlanta Dream in the playoffs last season, and even missed some early season games this year in recovery. Still, Delle Donne wouldn't let her knee keep her out of action, as her 31 regular season starts were the most games she's played since 2015. It's been evident she's had an edge all season to help her Washington Mystics get back to the Finals, and this time finish the job. 

Delle Donne's face mask has also been somewhat of a fashion trend in recent weeks with star athletes around the District. Wizards all-star guards John Wall and Bradley Beal along with Redskins runing back Derrius Guice, all wore the face masks in solidarity when they came to support the Mystics at the Entertainment and Sports Arena. 

Despite Delle Donne's nose having been fully recovered, she's kept the face mask on during games for style and reassurance. Considering these ailments, it's impressive Delle Donne's shooting touch not only hasn't been affected, but instead has improved. 

After a Game 2 win over the Las Vegas Aces, Delle Donne and Co. have the opportunity to make their season mantra come true and #RunItBack to a second straight WNBA Finals appearance. 


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The Las Vegas Aces have no answer for the Mystics ‘missing piece’ Emma Meesseman

The Las Vegas Aces have no answer for the Mystics ‘missing piece’ Emma Meesseman

WASHINGTON – A year ago the Washington Mystics made it to the WNBA Finals for the first time in franchise history. Top-to-bottom they were a loaded team that finally made the jump led by one of the most talented women’s basketball players in the world in Elena Delle Donne. 

But Delle Donne was hindered, battling through a knee injury throughout the entire playoffs. There was no one to give her relief, which resulted in the Seattle Storm sweeping the Mystics in the Finals. 

A full 365 days and some change have passed. Nearly everyone returned to the Mystics for another go at a championship. The younger players added a year of experience. Expectations are just as high. This year though they believe that they already have what it takes to win a championship; Emma Meesseman came back to the team.

“Emma is the missing piece for us,” Natasha Cloud said after Game 2. “From last year’s to this year’s team she the difference-maker in making us a championship team. She’s putting us on her back… Emma is an All-Star of her own. I’m extremely proud of the player she’s grown into.”

The first leg of the WNBA Semifinals against the Las Vegas Aces in Washington saw different ways Meesseman can be the reason why the Mystics lift the trophy at the end of the season. 

Game 1 she led all scorers with a season-high 27 points. Thirteen of those came in a 26-point third quarter that erased a seven-point lead for Las Vegas. Her explosion allowed the Mystics to surge back into the game. Complementary to Delle Donne’s 25 points, they were a dynamic duo. Las Vegas couldn’t hone in on one of them when they were both on the court. Washington won by two.

Game 2 the Belgian matched that performance. Meesseman tied a career-high with 30 points going 11-for-19 from the field and 5-for-7 from 3-point range. A majority of those (22) came in the second and third quarters to take firm control of the game. Each time the Aces attempted to come back, Meesseman would hit another dagger. Washington won by 12.

“She ain’t missing any shots. That’s the main thing,” Aces’ Liz Cambage said on how they’ve been unable to stop Meesseman. “She came out tonight – [the Mystics] all shot so well tonight.”

Put her in the paint and the flex player posted up and drove against the 6-8 Cambage, or forced her out to clear the lane for other Mystics. Stretch Meesseman out to the arc and she knocked down threes over shorter guards. She’s a Swiss army knife for the Mystics, versatility that is similar to the 2019 MVP Delle Donne.

That comparison is drawn from her own teammates, including Cloud. One that Meesseman believes to be a big honor.

Last year Meesseman missed the season to take a break and work on her game. She was winded after the 2017 season and the toll that it took on her. While away from the WNBA, a lot of her time on the court was with the Belgium national team. There she had to be the team's primary scorer. 

This year in Washington, she’s applied that mentality and aggressiveness to her play. While she’s come off the bench for essentially the whole season, Meesseman has been a huge asset. Now, she’s starting with a big line-up for Washington.

“You can’t just have one or two [go-to players]. We need three or four to win a championship and [Messeeman has] embraced that this last part of the season,” Mystics head coach Mike Thibault said. “She was aggressive, she was looking for the ball, just there is a whole different body language to her about this right now.”

Only twice this season had the 6-4 forward reached 20 points for the Mystics. One was in the penultimate game in the regular season. Granted, she missed 11 games for her national team obligations, but it has been rare to see this explosion. 

"Emma has got a chip on her shoulder. She clearly was watching last year and wasn't happy with the result,” Delle Donne told NBC Sports Washington's Chris Miller. “Emma is playing unreal basketball. She is so good, one of the greatest in the world. To add a piece like that and for her to step up like this has been so big for us."

But Meesseman doesn’t see herself as being the difference-maker. She’s just playing basketball and trying to contribute to an already established championship-level team. 

During Game 1’s postgame press conference Meesseman shut down being labeled as the “missing piece.”

“I’m not sure I agree with that-“ 

“Emma, stop it,” Delle Donne said. “We didn’t win Emma. We need you. I’ll take your 27 and 10 any night.”

She still isn't embracing that title after Game 2. Although if you ask the rest of the Mystics, Meesseman is alone in that regard.

Whether she likes it or not, Meesseman is the clear difference in the Mystics roster as opposed to the team that fell short in the WNBA Finals. When league historians look back at the 2018 and 2019 Mystics teams, she will stick out. 

The only question is will the “missing piece” push the Mystics to where they want to go.