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Elena Delle Donne scores 21 points as Washington Mystics beat Connecticut Sun in Game 5 to seal WNBA title

Associated Press

Friday 11 October 2019 10:48, UK

Elena Delle Donne guards Sun center Jonquel Jones 2:18
Highlights of the decisive Game 5 of the WNBA Finals between the Connecticut Sun and the Washington Mystics

The Washington Mystics won their first WNBA championship, getting 22 points from Emma Meesseman and 21 from banged-up league MVP Elena Delle Donne to beat the Connecticut Sun 89-78 in Game 5 of the Finals on Thursday night.

Game leaders

Connecticut Sun

  • Points: Jonquel Jones - 25
  • Assists: A Thomas/J Thomas - 6
  • Rebounds: Alyssa Thomas - 12

 

Washington Mystics

  • Points: Emma Meesseman - 22
  • Assists: Kristi Toliver - 4
  • Rebounds: Elena Delle Donne - 9

Mystics win series 3-2

WNBA Finals scores

It was a fitting conclusion to an entertaining series and WNBA season. This was the seventh series in league history that had gone to a deciding Game 5, and the home team has won five of them.

Delle Donne, who has been dealing with a herniated disk in her back, scored four points during a decisive 8-0 run that gave the Mystics an 80-72 lead with under three minutes left. But it was Meesseman, the soft-spoken Belgian who unveiled a new, aggressive "Playoff Emma" persona during the title run, who was named MVP of the Finals.

Meesseman missed last season while playing with the Belgian national team.

"I don't think I'm the missing piece. I'm their team-mate [and did what] I need to do help my team win a championship. This is my family right here," she said.

The victorious Mystics pose with the WNBA trophy
Image: The victorious Mystics pose with the WNBA trophy

Delle Donne came to Washington three years ago in a trade from Chicago, hoping to get the Mystics their first title. She grew up about an hour from the city in Delaware and wanted to be closer to home. She's been battling injuries and illnesses all season, breaking her nose early in the year. She still wears a mask to protect it. Delle Donne also wears a knee brace on her right knee after suffering a bone bruise in last year's Finals.

"Every time I get the Finals, something happens," Delle Donne said. "I think I p***ed the basketball gods off when I decided to step away [in college]. I hope this ends the drama that I'm having in the Finals.

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"It feels phenomenal, my goodness, feels so good. Hard to put it into words," said Delle Donne, who fell short in two previous Finals appearances. "To win it with such a great group of people. We wanted to win it for the person next to us. We'll remember this season. I'm kind of sad the season's about to be over. My goodness, we sure ended this on a high note."

The victory gave coach Mike Thibault his first WNBA championship. The league's all-time leader in game won had reached the Finals three times in his career - twice with Connecticut and last season with Washington - but fell short each time.

Emma Meesseman receives the Finals MVP award from WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert 2:25
Washington Mystics' forward Emma Meesseman was named MVP of the WNBA Finals after helping her team to their first league championship.

The game got off to a slow start with choppy play, but it picked up during a back-and-forth second half.

The Mystics trailed by nine midway through the third quarter before rallying to within two points at the end of the period. The teams traded the lead in the final period until Delle Donne hit a tough fadeaway midway through the quarter.

After a Connecticut miss, Kristi Toliver - the only player on either team who had won a title before - drove down the lane and hit a beautiful finger-roll lay-up to give the Mystics a 76-72 lead.

Delle Donne added another basket, and Meesseman capped the run with a jumper.

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"Emma went to work inside. Elena does what she does. You have to beat them by defending them. All the players stepped up in the fourth quarter when we needed it," Thibault said.

Connecticut could only get within six points the rest of the way.

"They were just better down the stretch," Sun coach Curt Miller said. "Defensively, it wasn't anything more than they were really physical. They were the physical team down the stretch when they needed it."

Delle Donne got the final rebound and hugged her team-mates at center court as the final buzzer sounded.

Elena Delle Donne celebrates a big play during Game 5 of the WNBA Finals
Image: Elena Delle Donne celebrates a big play during Game 5 of the WNBA Finals

Jonquel Jones had 25 points for the Sun and Alyssa Thomas added 21 points and 12 rebounds.

Delle Donne said the team was aware that the only thing missing from its coach's resume was the championship and was thrilled to help give him his first.

"He's created such a family atmosphere here that the least we could do is win a title for him," she said.

The two shared a long embrace at center court as confetti rained down after the game.

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Meesseman got rolling when the Mystics desperately needed her, with Connecticut leading by nine. She scored 11 points in the third period on an array of post moves and outside shots to get the Mystics within 64-62 heading into the final quarter.

Meesseman said her motivation was simple. "The trophy," she said. "It's a championship game. That's all I need. I'm just playing basketball. Today I just shot my shot."

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