The Washington Mystics have never been so close. Since joining the WNBA in 1998, the Mystics have made it only so far as the semifinals; last year, they were swept by the eventual champions, the Minnesota Lynx. Now, with their semifinal series against the Atlanta Dream even at 2, the Mystics take aim at their first WNBA Finals trip with Game 5 set for Tuesday night.
Washington’s chances this year suddenly looked very grim the last time they were in Atlanta. During Game 2, the Mystics watched as every team’s worst fear played out, franchise forward Elena Delle Donne limping off court after bending her knee backward. Kristi Toliver missed a last-ditch 3-point attempt that would have secured the Mystics’ victory and a chance to head back to D.C. with a 2-0 series lead.
Without Delle Donne in the lineup Friday, the Mystics dropped Game 3. Things were understandably dire, and yet, down 2-1 in the series, Washington routed the Dream in Game 4 on Sunday, 97-76, forcing a Game 5.
Toliver led the home team with 22 points, one of six Mystics to score in double digits. Delle Donne returned to the floor after undergoing a grueling five-day recovery, and though her scoring was below her average (15 points), the team seemed revitalized with the 6-foot-5 forward running up and down the court.
“We got our Superwoman back,” Toliver told The Washington Post on Sunday.
The Dream are also missing their own key piece; Baltimore native and nine-season pro Angel McCoughtry suffered a season-ending knee injury Aug. 7.
If the Mystics advance, they would join the Stanley Cup-champion Capitals and ArenaBowl champion Valor as Washington teams that reached a chance to compete for the highest honor of their sport this year.
Whichever team the Mystics would face in the Finals will be far from rested. The Phoenix Mercury came from behind to upset the top-seeded Seattle Storm, 86-84, on Sunday and become the first team in league history to rally from an 0-2 start to reach Game 5.
How to watch Game 5
When: Tuesday, 8 p.m.
Where: McCamish Pavilion, Atlanta