July 5 WNBA Preview — Washington Mystics (9-3) at Las Vegas Aces (7-5)

After making an emphatic statement regarding their championship aspirations, the surging Washington Mystics seek a sixth straight win Friday night when they open a two-game western road swing versus the Las Vegas Aces.

The Mystics (9-3), who own the best record in the WNBA, came up short in the WNBA Finals last year in losing to the Storm. They suffered two losses to the Sun in the first six games of this season before absorbing a close loss to Seattle at home.

Since that defeat, however, it has been smooth sailing for Washington, which will be well-rested for this contest after dismantling Connecticut 102-59 at home Saturday in a matchup of the top two teams in the league. Elena Delle Donne had 19 points and 10 rebounds for the Mystics, who set a franchise record for margin of victory that was also the fourth-biggest in WNBA history.

“It’s what we’ve been trying to find, the balance of great defense and good offense, and everything you could ask for in a game, we did today,” coach Mike Thibault told The Washington Post. “Our team has committed themselves to the defensive end of the floor, and that’s what we did. It’s held its own for five straight games now, and that’s why we have five wins.”

Delle Donne has led the offense during that run, averaging 20 points and 10.6 rebounds while recording three double-doubles. The Mystics continue to outpace the league offensively, averaging a WNBA-best 86.8 points while making a league-topping 8.9 3-pointers per game. Washington is also second in scoring defense at 73.2 points per game allowed and fourth in defensive field goal percentage (41.6).

Las Vegas (8-5) is seeking its first three-game winning streak of the season but also has won six of its last eight following an uneven start. The Aces extended their home winning streak to four games with a 90-82 win over the Sky on Tuesday as Liz Cambage, Kayla McBride and A’ja Wilson scored 16 points apiece.

Cambage added nine rebounds and seven assists, while the Aces’ defense got the job done in the fourth quarter by limiting Chicago to 10 points. Kelsey Plum scored 14 points off the bench on 6-of-9 shooting, ending a horrific slump that had seen her go 3 for 32 in her previous five contests.

“This is who we are as the Las Vegas Aces. Across the board, everyone can score, everyone can get the basketball and create something,” Wilson told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “If we make it to the playoffs and things like that, that’s what’s going to separate us.”

The second win on Washington’s current five-game run was a 95-72 pounding of Las Vegas in Sin City on June 20. Delle Donne had 29 points and 11 rebounds to lead four Mystics players in double figures as they shot 10 of 20 from beyond the arc.

After the game, Aces coach Bill Laimbeer was succinct, saying, “An experienced basketball team kicked the crap out of an inexperienced basketball team. They played very well, and we didn’t.”

(Elena Delle Donne/Kristi Tolliver photo courtesy Washington Mystics official Twitter account)

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