2019 WNBA Finals: Elena Delle Donne plays through the pain, Mystics catch fire from downtown in Game 3 win over Sun
The Mystics knocked down 16 3-pointers to power their pivotal Game 3 victory
In the aftermath of Game 2 of the 2019 WNBA Finals, the Washington Mystics looked to be in trouble. Not only did they drop that game at home to the Connecticut Sun, but they lost the MVP Elena Delle Donne to a back injury in the process. Now, just a few days later, they're back in control, thanks to a dominant 94-81 victory in Game 3 on Sunday afternoon.
Delle Donne battled through the pain, and even though she clearly wasn't at her best, was still able to chip in 13 points and six rebounds while providing an obvious emotional lift. Kristi Toliver took over the main scoring and playmaking duties, and finished with 20 points and 10 assists, while the Mystics as a team were on fire from downtown, draining 16 3-pointers.
Playoffs included, this was just the third loss at home all season for the Sun. Now, they have their backs to the wall, and face a must-win Game 4 on Tuesday night. They'll need much better performances from Courtney Williams and Jonquel Jones if they want to get a win in that one. Those two combined for just 15 points on Sunday, which isn't going to cut it.
Here are some key takeaways from Game 3:
Delle Donne provides a lift
The 2019 WNBA MVP had no intention of letting her team lose on Sunday. Despite a herniated disc in her back that forced her to miss all but a few minutes of Game 2, Delle Donne was back on the court for Game 3. Playing through obvious pain, Delle Donne put up 13 points and six rebounds. She wasn't at her best, but she was there, and that's what mattered.
"I just want to be a leader for this team," Delle Donne said on the court after the win. "I absolutely love them. I did nothing. I was just on the court and they carried me, and they've done that all season long. I love them to death, and we've got a little bit more work to do."
While Delle Donne was being too harsh on herself there, it's true that the other Mystics players had to step up without her at her best. Still, the MVP just being on the court was a huge boost to this team. She knocked down enough open jumpers to keep the defense honest and helped shore up their rebounding problems from Game 2.
Plus from an emotional standpoint, it's uplifting to see your best player out there beside you -- especially on the road in front of a raucous Connecticut crowd. Delle Donne playing allowed the Mystics to keep their normal rotations, and kept everyone in their regular routine. That aspect showed as the Mystics got off to a terrific start, opening up a 32-17 lead after the first quarter.
Let it fly
The Mystics and Sun were two of the best 3-point shooting teams in the league this season, but the road team was the only one who proved it during Game 3. They did more than that, in fact, putting on a brilliant shooting display that saw them go 16-of-27 from downtown to tie a Finals record and outscore the Sun 48-15 from the 3-point line. There were other reasons why the Sun lost, but it's awfully tough to overcome a 33-point deficit from the 3-point line.
The usual suspects were at it for the Mystics, with Delle Donne and Kristi Toliver combining to go 7-of-8 from downtown, but they also got five 3s from Natasha Cloud and three from Emma Meeseman. Under normal circumstances, the Mystics' offense is difficult to contain, but there's almost nothing you can do when all of their top players are knocking down shots from the outside. Cloud, in particular, was the big difference maker. She's often the one who gets left alone and is dared to shoot, and in Game 3 she was making the Sun pay.
Williams and Jones absent
It's quite difficult to win any game when your two best offensive players are struggling, but especially Game 3 of the Finals. The Sun found that out firsthand on Sunday, as Courtney Williams and Jonquel Jones combined for just 15 points on 5-of-17 from the field. Williams is their best one-on-one scorer, and the only player on the team who can consistently get her own shot on the perimeter, while Jones is their one true dominant force inside. When neither of them are able to get going, the Sun are going to have a hard time.
Some of that was down to them just having a bad day; Jones, in particular, missed a number of completely wide-open jumpers. At the same time, the Mystics deserve plenty of credit for their work on defense. They weren't known for their work on that end of the floor throughout the season, but they were ready to play on Sunday. Natasha Cloud was a thorn in Williams' side all game long, and played a big role in limiting her to just nine shots -- well below her playoff average of 16.8. On the inside, LaToya Sanders played her usual strong defense, and Delle Donne's presence made life much more difficult for the Sun inside.
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