The Washington Mystics secured a big victory in Game 1 of the 2019 WNBA Finals, but Game 2 did not go their way. Just a few minutes into the game, league MVP Elena Delle Donne left the court with what the team later announced was back spasms. She did not return to the floor, and in her absence, the Mystics couldn't keep up with the Sun. Led by 32 points and 18 rebounds from Jonquel Jones -- who dominated the glass with Delle Donne off the floor -- the Sun secured a 99-87 victory to tie the series up at 1-1.
There was no obvious moment when Delle Donne got injured, but she checked out of the game shortly after making this spin move against Alyssa Thomas, and that may have been where she tweaked her back.
Delle Donne immediately made her way to the locker room, and a short time later, ESPN's Holly Rowe reported that Delle Donne practiced sparingly on Monday due to a back injury.
Rowe's report from the broadcast:
I am told that they are working on her right now. We don't know exactly what's wrong with her, but I will tell you yesterday she did not practice much because of a back issue. She has had back issues in the past, and I believe that is probably what they're working on. I'll get a further update when we're certain.
It goes without saying that this is a huge problem for the Mystics. Delle Donne was the MVP this season, and is one of the most unstoppable offensive players the league has ever seen. In Game 1, she led the Mystics to victory with 22 points, 10 rebounds and five assists, and was theon the floor.
During the regular season, including the July 7 game against the Sparks where she played just one minute, the Mystics were 0-4 without her. With her in the lineup, they were 26-4. Now, of course, they've also lost Game 2 in which she barely played.
Emma Meesseman is a strong player in her own right, and can step right in to Delle Donne's place in the Mystics' starting unit. However, sliding Meesseman up greatly diminishes the Mystics' depth, and the injury also eliminates the "big" lineup they like to play with Delle Donne, Meesseman and LaToya Sanders.
Furthermore, as we saw in Game 2, the Mystics miss Delle Donne on the glass. While scoring is the main aspect of her game, she's also one of the best rebounders in the league. During the regular season, she finished fifth in that department, pulling down 8.3 per game. At 6-foot-5, she's also their biggest player, and is key in keeping Jones off the glass.
In Game 1, Jones -- who led the league in rebounding during the regular season -- pulled down only six rebounds; none of them were on the offensive glass. But with Delle Donne out for much of Game 2, Jones absolutely dominated in the rebounding department. She set a new WNBA Finals record with 18 boards, including nine of the offensive variety. That was key to the Sun scoring a whopping 27 second-chance points en route to victory.
The good news for the Mystics is that Game 3 isn't until Sunday, which gives Delle Donne some extra time to recover. They'll have to hope that she's ready to go, and at something close to 100 percent, otherwise they're going to have an extra tough time on the road, where the Sun went 15-2 this season.