Sept. 8 WNBA Preview — Chicago Sky (20-13) at Washington Mystics (25-8)

The Chicago Sky need a victory and some help for a top-four finish and a bye into the second round. The Washington Mystics have everything they need ahead of the postseason as the top seed and home-court advantage throughout the playoffs ahead of Sunday’s regular-season finale.

The Sky (20-13) are tied with the Las Vegas Aces for fourth but need to finish ahead of them since they lost the head-to-head season tiebreaker and would finish last in a three-way tiebreaker with Las Vegas and Los Angeles – which already clinched the No. 3 spot – if the Sparks lose their season finale and both the Sky and Aces win.

Chicago gave itself a chance for the bye with a tenacious 109-104 overtime victory at Connecticut on Friday night, rallying from a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit and ending the Sun’s hopes of overtaking the Mystics (25-8) for the No. 1 seed. Diamond DeShields scored a career-high 30 points and Courtney Vandersloot added 19 points and 11 assists for her 29th career double-double in points and assists to move ahead of Sue Bird.

“They’re so dynamic offensively and really really difficult to guard,” Sun coach Curt Miller told the Hartford Courant about the Sky. “They played terrific offensively all night.”

Vandersloot needs three assists to be assured of being the first player in WNBA history to average at least 9.0 in a season and already has the single-season mark with 294 entering this contest. The All-Star point guard had 15 points, nine assists, and eight rebounds in helping Chicago down Washington 85-78 at home Aug. 23 in the most recent matchup between the teams.

The Mystics have reeled off five straight wins since their loss in the Windy City, and four of them have been by double digits after defeating Dallas 86-73 on Friday night. Emma Meessman scored 23 of her 25 points in the first half and pulled down 10 rebounds as Washington extended its home winning streak to nine games since an 85-81 setback to Las Vegas on July 13.

“It was what we’ve been fighting for all year,” Mystics coach Mike Thibault told The Washington Post after some of his players watched Chicago beat Connecticut and give the Mystics the No. 1 seed. “Our players still want to come out and play Sunday and win that game on Sunday, but it’s nice to have that pressure off, too. We’ve played with the pressure for two straight months, and we stood up to it pretty well.”

Washington is expected to again be without point guard Kristi Toliver as she nurses a bone bruise on her right knee. That has allowed Thibault to experiment with a bigger lineup in which the 6-foot-4 Meessman and 6-5 Elena Delle Donne – an MVP candidate – to create mismatches in the low post and perimeter with their stellar inside-out games.

Last month’s loss to the Sky was the first for Delle Donne in nine games since she was dealt from Chicago to Washington before the 2017 season. Delle Donne, who had 16 points on 5-of-14 shooting, has averaged 19.0 points and 7.1 rebounds in nine games against her former team.

(Elena Delle Donne photo courtesy NBA News Now Twitter account)

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