July 21 WNBA Preview — Atlanta Dream (5-13) at Washington Mystics (11-6)

The Washington Mystics sorely missed Elena Delle Donne, which made her triumphant return all the sweeter.

Delle Donne and the Mystics look to make it back-to-back wins Sunday when they host the struggling Atlanta Dream.

The superstar and one of the captains for the upcoming WNBA All-Star game, Delle Donne missed two full games and nearly all of a third – all Mystics losses – when she suffered a broken nose in the opening minutes of a 98-81 loss at Los Angeles on July 7. Delle Donne – playing with a clear facial mask – made an emphatic return with 28 points and a season high-tying 15 rebounds to power Washington (11-6) to a 95-88 overtime victory at Indiana on Friday night.

She scored eight points in the final 1:22 of regulation, knocking down a pair of 3-pointers before forcing overtime with an 18-foot stepback jumper with 6.9 seconds to play. Kristi Tolliver picked up the scoring in the extra period, netting six points in an 8-3 burst that gave the Mystics an 89-84 edge with 3:03 to go.

“She’s the most balanced professional basketball player, maybe even more balanced than the men,” Fever coach Pokey Chatman told the Indy Star about Delle Donne. “She’s savvy, she’s good, she’s long. She has a lot of touch. She stepped up and made plays for her team.”

Delle Donne has already powered the Mystics to a pair of victories over Atlanta, totaling 39 points and 17 rebounds while shooting 64 percent (16 for 25). Washington is also looking to avoid its first three-game home losing streak since June 3-15, 2018.

The Dream (5-13) are trying to salvage the final leg of a three-game road swing while also looking to end a three-game skid. Atlanta was overrun by the Connecticut Sun 98-69 on Friday night, losing contact when the Sun went on a 11-4 tear to open the second half and take a 16-point lead.

Brittany Sykes snapped out of a lengthy offensive funk with 26 points after totaling 21 in her previous four games combined. Three of Sykes’ four highest-scoring games this year have come on the road, but the Dream guard has been limited to 12 points on 5-of-13 shooting in the two losses to Washington.

Atlanta is 1-7 on the road this season, with five of the losses coming by double-digit margins. One of those five was a 96-75 thumping in the nation’s capital on June 1. Delle Donne made her season debut and scored 18 points while going 7 for 7 in the first half. Washington recorded an 89-73 victory in Atlanta in the most recent matchup June 23.

Center Alaina Coates could make her Dream debut in this contest after signing with the club Thursday. The No. 2 overall pick in the 2017 draft averaged 2.5 points and 2.4 rebounds in 14 games for the Minnesota Lynx and made a definite impact on Dream coach Nicki Collen after she had a career-high 10 points and nine boards in Minnesota’s 85-68 win over Atlanta on July 2.

“We are thrilled to add a player with the size and athleticism of Alaina,” Collen told the Dream’s official website. “We have struggled at times with defensive rebounding and scoring efficiently around the rim this season, and we believe she can help us in those two areas now and in the future.”

Including the playoffs last year in which Washington rallied from a 2-1 series deficit to win in five games, the Mystics have won the last five meetings between the teams.

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

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