WNBA Finals 2019: Elena Delle Donne shows why she's the MVP in Mystics' Game 1 win over Sun

The Washington Mystics won't be getting swept in the Finals this season. Late on Sunday afternoon, they held on for a 95-86 win over the Connecticut Sun in Game 1 of the 2019 WNBA Finals to take a 1-0 series lead. Elena Delle Donne showed why she was the MVP, leading the way with 22 points, 10 rebounds and five assists, and Ariel Atkins bounced back from a disappointing semifinal series against the Aces to go for 21 points and five rebounds. 

Courtney Williams dropped a game-high 26 points for the Sun in defeat, while Alyssa Thomas had a typically strong all-around game with 20 points, six rebounds, six assists and five steals. Unfortunately for the Sun, those two performances weren't good enough in this game. The good news for them is they'll only have to wait until Tuesday night for a chance at redemption. Game 2 is set for 8 p.m. ET that night. 

Here are some key takeaways from the Mystics' big Game 1 win. 

Delle Donne delivers

Elena Delle Donne ran away with the MVP Award this season, putting together another fantastic campaign that included her becoming the first WNBA player to join the 50/40/90 club. On Sunday, she showed exactly why she earned that honor for the second time in her career. She led the Mystics in scoring and rebounding, finishing with 22 points, 10 rebounds and five assists on a highly efficient 8-of-13 shooting performance. 

But more important than just her numbers were the way that she got them. Right from the opening tip she was ready to go, scoring seven points in the first quarter to help the Mystics jump out to a commanding 13-point lead. Then, late in the fourth, when the Sun had worked their way back into the game, she came up with some big buckets to stop their momentum. Twice, when the Sun had cut the deficit to just four points, Delle Donne scored on the other end to keep them at an arm's length. 

Those type of moments are exactly when you want your best player to step up, and Delle Donne delivered. 

Too little, too late for the Sun

Early in Game 1, the Sun struggled with turnovers, bad decisions and trying to stop the Mystics' high-powered offense. By the end of the first quarter, they found themselves down by 13 points, and in a serious hole. You never want to be down by double figures early, but especially not against a Mystics team that set a WNBA record this season with eight wins by 25 or more points. All season long, Washington would get out to decent leads and then just bury teams. 

The good news for the Sun is that they showed some serious resolve to settle down and get themselves back into the game. Late in the third quarter, they finally started stringing together some stops, which allowed them to get out in transition and score some easy baskets. By the middle of the fourth, they had the deficit all the way down to four points. Unfortunately for them, they never got any closer. On the one hand, it was a good sign that they didn't quit and found a way back into the game. At the same time, it showed why they simply can't afford to get down big against this Mystics team. Washington scores so easily that it's always going to be tough to overcome big deficits against them. 

Atkins bounces back

In her second season, Ariel Atkins showed that her performance as a rookie was no fluke. She once again shot the ball well from 3 and played terrific defense on the perimeter. In the semifinals against the Aces, however, she really struggled, shooting just 23.8 percent from the floor and 18.2 percent from 3. Late in games, she couldn't even stay on the floor, with Mystics head coach Mike Thibault preferring Natasha Cloud and Kristi Toliver in the backcourt. 

So it was a great sign when Atkins started off Game 1 of the Finals by drilling a 3-pointer on the opening possession. That was just the start of a terrific bounce back performance for Atkins, who finished the day with 21 points -- second only to Delle Donne on the Mystics -- on 6-of-7 shooting, five rebounds and three steals. On defense, she helped shut down the Sun's best sharpshooter, Shekinna Stricklen, holding her to just 1-of-6 from downtown. While the Mystics can't expect 21 points from Atkins every game in this series, this was a positive sign that she's back on track. And that's great news for the Mystics, because they were much better with her on the floor all season long. 

NBA Writer

Jack Maloney lives and writes in Milwaukee, where, like the Bucks, he is trying to own the future. Full Bio

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