Washington Mystics-San Antonio Stars: Three Takeaways from Elena Delle Donne’s Washington Debut

WASHINGTON—Elena Delle Donne playing for the Washington Mystics is no longer reserved for the hypothetical and Mike Thibault’s fever dreams.

The reality is every bit as exciting as expected, with Delle Donne and the Mystics delighting a home crowd with an 89-74 victory Sunday afternoon at the Verizon Center.

Here’s what we learned from the momentous occasion in league history, but one in which Delle Donne was hardly the only remarkable performer on the floor.

So many open shots

Look, San Antonio was playing the second half of a grueling season-opening back-to-back. Face Tina Charles? Great, now don’t rest and go take on Delle Donne, Emma Meesseman and Tayler Hill. But the Stars held their own defensively, on the boards and with max effort.

So the fact that the Mystics found so much open space on the floor has far less to do with opponent than the simple geometric realities of having four, and often five shooters on the court at a time.

Three of the top four three-point shooters in the league last year play for the Mystics now. But Meesseman, Kristi Toliver and Delle Donne each did it on different teams. Now they create space for one another with their mere threat of shooting from deep. And not only does that lead to open threes whenever the ball moves, it means when Delle Donne penetrates, help defenders have to converge on her from further out on the court. It’s impossible to stop her going down hill standing in front of her. So, well, good luck, WNBA defenses.

Dismiss San Antonio at your peril

Look, there are no moral victories in the standings. San Antonio is 0-2, as expected coming into games at New York and Washington. But Stars coach Vickie Johnson has to be pleased with the way her team played in this back-to-back, hanging with New York until late, and doing the same until late in the third quarter in Washington despite missing the team’s three best players in Moriah Jefferson, Kayla McBride and Kelsey Plum.

That sentence feels premature at some level given the star turn Monique Currie displayed this weekend. Playing out of position at point guard for much of the two games by necessity, Currie managed to score 23 against New York and 31 in Washington, while making sure her younger teammates never deviated from max effort. Even by the middle of the fourth quarter, Currie’s forays to the hoop, capped by a reverse layup, reminded everyone that back-to-back needn’t mean taking any plays off.

We won’t begin to know about the Stars until they are intact, hopefully as soon as their home opener next Friday against Phoenix. But they are playing for Johnson, that’s clear early.

Who needs a point guard, anyway?

Emma Meesseman led the Mystics in assists with five. Seven different Mystics recorded assists. Positionless basketball, everybody.