Delle Donne, Atkins question marks for Game 3 of WNBA Finals
By Howard Fenderich
Oct 05, 2019 at 4:46 PM
UNCASVILLE, CONN. — Washington Mystics coach Mike Thibault says his says his team is prepared to play the pivotal Game 3 of the WNBA Finals without league MVP Elena Delle Donne and guard Ariel Atkins.
The pair combined for 43 points last week in leading the Mystics to a nine-point opening-game win, but both were listed as questionable with back spasms as the series resumes on Sunday tied at a game apiece.
The 6-foot-5 Delle Donne, who averaged 19.5 points and 8.2 rebounds this season, is suffering from a herniated disc that is pinching a nerve in her back. She left Tuesday’s 99-87 Game 2 loss without scoring a point after playing only a few minutes in the first quarter.
Thibault said that Atkins, who had 21 points on 6 of 7 shooting in Game 1, bent down at some point on Thursday night and could not stand up again.
Both players travelled with the Mystics to Connecticut, but were receiving medical treatment on their backs while their teammates practiced on Saturday.
“I’m not counting on them playing,” Thibault said. ”I know (Connecticut Sun coach Curt Miller) thinks I’m making this stuff up. I wish I was. Our team is preparing to play tomorrow without either player.”
Without Delle Donne’s inside presence, Connecticut dominated in the paint in Game 2, outrebounding Washington 41-27. Sun forward Jonquel Jones scored 32 points and grabbed 18 rebounds, including a Finals record nine on the offense end of the court.
Mystics forward Emma Meeseman, who scored 23 points Tuesday, said the team has made some defensive adjustments to deal with Jones if Delle Donne can’t play on Sunday.
“It’s going to be a team defense,” she said. ”She has to see that it’s one against five, not one against one.”
Delle Donne has dealt with illnesses and injuries throughout her career. She has battled chronic Lyme disease since college and had back issues that also limited her in the Finals when she played in Chicago in 2014.