- Elena Delle Donne hardly played three minutes before succumbing to back spasms, allowing Jonquel Jones to shine in the Sun’s Game 2 win in the WNBA Finals.
Three minutes and 28 seconds. That’s how long it took for this series to essentially turn on its head.
Elena Delle Donne, she of the 50/40/90 club and the 2019 WNBA MVP, motioned to be removed from the game three and a half minutes in and never came back after being diagnosed with back spasms and being listed questionable to return.
Her absence was felt on the floor and in the arena, as the Mystics looked for answers and nearly found them before Connecticut shut the door on Game 2 in the fourth quarter to earn a 99-87 win and even the series at one game apiece.
With Delle Donne nowhere to be seen, it became Jonquel Jones' game to shine for the Sun, as the center absolutely dominated in the paint, hoovering up rebounds that came anywhere close to her and showing how important she is to this series.
Jones finished with a game-high 32 points and 18 (!!!) rebounds, showing that her tame Game 1 stat line of 13 and six may have just been a blip. She rectified her poor Game 1 performance on the offensive glass—she had exactly zero offensive rebounds in 32 minutes, which is odd for a player who is regularly the tallest player on the court—by grabbing nine Tuesday night.
Delle Donne—who coach Mike Thibault said is set to get an MRI in the next couple days and news of the severity of the injury will be discerned then—may not be the most imposing defensive player in the league but the Mystics clearly missed her size in the paint. Without the responsibility of chasing EDD all over the court, Jones was able to conserve energy and do what she does best, grab boards over smaller players and pile up buckets by getting shots close to the rim.
Jones was especially impactful in giving her teammates multiple chances to score, with her offensive boards being a big reason why the Sun was able to hold the Mystics at arm’s length for most of the game.
“It was huge, honestly,” Jones said of her team capitalizing off second-chance points. “I felt like in Game 1 I was in good positions but these people weren't missing like that, it was tough. But honestly, it was huge.”
Courtney Williams, who was the second-leading scorer for the Sun with 22 points, was more effusive in talking about Jones's big game.
“JJ was going crazy today,” Williams said. “I told her that I could pull the ball up from half court and she was going to look out for me and get the rebound. So that’s huge. When she has the mindset to get every ball, every rebound. That was huge for us.”
The game was far from a dominant performance though, despite the final score. While Washington was without Delle Donne’s services for the vast majority of the game, its bench stepped up big time.
Emma Meesseman was astonishing, hitting runners, going for up-and-unders and just generally making shots whenever she saw fit. She finished with 23 points on 10-of-17 shooting and played nearly every moment after EDD was take out.
Tiana Hawkins was also a major contributor off the Mystics’ bench, hitting three huge shots from deep and giving Washington another offensive option on a night where she accounted for nearly half of the team’s made threes.
Aerial Powers also came in and made an impact, especially during the third quarter when the Mystics were able to tie the game and Entertainment and Sports Arena was in hysterics.
Even 52 points from the Washington bench wasn’t enough, however, and now the Mystics have to go into Mohegan Sun Arena and try to take at least one while the health of their superstar is under question.
Getting that win could prove difficult with Delle Donne on the court or not. Connecticut smells blood and their mixture of confidence and composure under pressure could lead the Sun to its first championship.
Williams doesn’t look like she’s cooling down anytime soon, Curt Miller may never remove Alyssa Thomas from a game if she keeps putting up the numbers she is while playing 40 straight minutes and Jones is capable of having one or more huge games in this series.
It’d be too simplistic to say that this series lies in the severity of Delle Donne’s back injury but Washington has left the door open for Connecticut to protect home court and win a championship. The Mystics have until Sunday before Game 3 but fans will be waiting anxiously to hear news of EDD’s MRI. It will likely change the complexion of this series.