The Washington Mystics look to continue fending off the Connecticut Sun for the No. 1 seed in the WNBA playoffs Friday night when they begin a season-ending two-game homestand against the Dallas Wings and rookie of the year frontrunner Arike Ogunbowale.
The Mystics (24-8) lead the Sun (23-9) by one game but must finish ahead of them since they lost the head-to-head tiebreaker in the season series. Washington has ripped off four straight victories and won 10 of 11 overall after cruising by the New York Liberty 93-77 on the road Tuesday night.
MVP candidate Elena Delle Donne scored 25 of her 30 points in the first half and pulled down 10 rebounds as the Mystics raced to a 12-point lead after a quarter and never looked back. Ariel Atkins added 23 points as the Mystics recorded 24 assists on their 33 field goals and hit 12 of 25 from 3-point range.
“Obviously, we’re the greatest team and I think we’re going to win it all,” Delle Donne told New York Newsday, offering a tongue-in-cheek response to Connecticut’s Courtney Williams the Sun will win it all. “I think every team going in the playoffs is going to say that. … We’re battle-tested.”
Delle Donne has found a higher gear offensively as the team continues to let Kristi Tolliver recover from a bone bruise on her right knee to be close to 100 percent for the playoffs. Delle Donne has averaged 22.5 points in her last six games while shooting 61.6 percent.
The Wings (10-22) have a chance to overtake the Indiana Fever for ninth but enter this contest looking to avoid a sixth loss in seven games. Dallas is getting a rough first-hand look on what makes a successful team in the WNBA as it is completing a three-game gauntlet of contests versus Washington and Connecticut.
Ogunbowale became just the third rookie in WNBA history to record at least four 30-point games and the first to do so in three straight contests after totaling 32 while Dallas was throttled 102-72 on the road Wednesday night by the Sun.
The fifth overall pick in on a run of nine straight games of 20 or more points which has vaulted her to third in the league in scoring at 18.5 points per game. But what has also stood out during that run has been Ogunbowale’s improved shooting – she has made 42.9 percent of her shots (79 for 184), a marked improvement on her season accuracy of 38.6 percent.
The Mystics had to work for a 91-85 victory in Dallas six days ago as Delle Donne had 29 points while Emma Meesseman had 19, seven rebounds, and seven assists to help offset a 35-point night by Ogunbowale on 13-of-28 shooting.
(Arike Ogunbowale photo courtesy WNBA official Twitter account)