The Washington Mystics are WNBA champions for the first time in franchise history. They got the job done late on Thursday night with an exciting 89-78 win over the Connecticut Sun in a winner-take-all Game 5 that lived up to the hype. And as was the case all season long, they couldn't have done it without Emma Meesseman, who was named WNBA Finals MVP.
Meesseman was fantastic in Game 5, leading the Mystics in scoring with 22 points while chipping in three rebounds, three assists and two steals. But even more important than just her production, was when she got her buckets. Early in the third quarter, the Sun went on a run to take a nine-point lead, but just as soon as they took control, Jonquel Jones had to sit down with her fourth foul.
On the ensuing dead ball, Meesseman checked in and started to cook, taking advantage of mismatches down low caused by Jones' absence. She drew fouls to get herself to the line for easy points, knocked down jumpers and even made a few drives inside. In the third quarter alone she scored 11 points to help the Mystics cut the deficit back down to two. She added a few more buckets late in the fourth to help seal the win, but her work in the third quarter changed the game.
Meesseman missed all of last season after deciding to stay at home in Belgium to train with her national team, and the Mystics sorely missed her presence as they were swept in the Finals by the Seattle Storm. They could have used her regardless, but her absence was even more noticeable after Delle Donne injured her knee and was unable to play up to her usual standards.
So it was fitting that Meesseman stepped up in the Finals after Delle Donne once again got hurt. The regular season MVP suffered a herniated disk in her back which forced her to miss almost all of Game 2, and hampered her the rest of the series. With Meesseman around, however, the Mystics were able to keep moving right along. And now, they're WNBA champions.
Meesseman scored in double figures off the bench in every game of the Finals, averaging 17.8 points, 4.6 rebounds, 1.8 assists, one steal and one block. She's the first Belgian to ever win Finals MVP, and just the second non-American, joining Australian center Lauren Jackson, who won the award with the Storm in 2010.