Elena Delle Donne will play Game 3 for Mystics after back injury

Sun at Washington Mystics

Just a few minutes into Game 2 last Tuesday, Delle Donne checked out of the game and immediately made her way to the locker room. Whenever she was not on the court Sunday, Delle Donne would be in a corridor riding a stationary bike or walking, Thibault later explained.

The 6-foot-5 wing was clearly limited in her movement and stayed mostly on the perimeter, but was effective enough to command the attention of Connecticut's defense.

"Her presence alone, whether she's 100 percent or 10 percent just instills confidence in the rest of the group, " said Toliver. "And she showed a lot of character and showed a lot of heart just being out on the floor today because she's obviously not feeling great". Instead of practicing with her teammates this week, she's been nearly exclusively in the training room in hopes of returning to the court for the rest of the series. CT cut the Mystics' lead to 10 with three minutes to go in the fourth, but weren't able to pull any closer. Four were off the hands of Kristi Toliver and three each from Delle Donne and Emma Meesseman.

After allowing LaToya Sanders to sink one from beyond the arc, the Sun went on a monster 12-0 run, trimming the Mystics' lead to a single bucket.

CT kicked off the quarter with a quick eight points, but Washington countered that with seven of its own.

Delle Donne, the WNBA's Most Valuable Player, did not participate in any basketball activities all week in an effort to get her ailing back to a manageable state to allow her to play Game 3. The 6-8 center was a member of the All-WNBA First Team in 2018, when she led the league in scoring and finished second in rebounding.

Washington took a 17-point lead in the first quarter and led 41-27 in the second quarter before CT went on a 12-0 run.

Washington limited Jones to four field goals, controlled the glass to out-rebound CT 18-9 midway through the second quarter and played excellent perimeter defense.

While the Mystics ultimately played both Delle Donne and Atkins, it was the entire Mystics roster that undid the Sun.

"It was kind of one of those moments, like hey I might give my back up and my body up on this one, but I feel like this is such a big moment to stop that run that they're making", she said. With it, the Mystics are one win away from a WNBA title after a 94-81 victory in CT on Sunday. "I love them. I did nothing, I was just on the court, they carried me and they've done that all season long", Delle Donne said. "It hurt us that I wasn't able to get on the boards".

She finished with 13 points, hitting 5 of her 6 shots and played 26 minutes as Washington took a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five WNBA Finals. Her status for Sunday's matchup was very much in doubt until shortly before tipoff. She went down to her knees for a loose ball just over five minutes into the game, was subbed out and went straight to the tunnel.

The league's MVP has a herniated disk that is pinching a nerve in her back and was questionable to play in Game 3. As a team they shot an outstanding 59.3% from behind the arc, their best mark on the season.

Washington outrebounded CT, 34-27, after being dominated on the boards, 41-27, in Game 2. Ogwumike averaged 16.1 points, 8.8 rebounds and 1.9 steals per game.

After being faced with a 15-point deficit in the first, the Sun showed what they're truly made of in the second. Jones does clean up the glass nicely for the Sun with 9.7 boards a game and an incredible 3.3 offensive boards per game.

"It's a little weird", he said.

"I do a lot of deep breathing to try and help loosen my muscles and focus away from the pain", Delle Donne told reporters on Monday afternoon.



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