Elena Delle Donne wasn’t the only athlete to make a return to Chicago.
To be sure, she was the big story as her Washington Mystics paid a visit to Allstate Arena Wednesday afternoon. Traded from Chicago to Washington in the off-season, the matinee game marked Delle Donne’s return to her former confines.
However, the Sky’s Allie Quigley was hoping to play spoiler. Suiting up for the first time since completing her Turkish season, Quigley was poised to do just that, but Delle Donne and her Mystics prevailed. Washington snapped a two-game losing streak for an 82-67 win.
Delle Donne’s imprint could be found throughout the game, but other elements swayed in Washington’s favor as they got back to the .500 mark.
Bricks down low
Chicago’s field goal clip of 30 percent can be partially attributed to their litany of misses down low. The most costly of them all came midway through the fourth quarter, with the Mystics leading 67-59. Jessica Breland attempted a back-door play intended for Stefanie Dolson, but her pass was slightly off target. Unable to handle the ball cleanly, Dolson came up empty. On the other end, Washington’s Natasha Cloud drilled a transition triple. What could have been a six-point deficit was pushed to 11. and the Mystics pulled away for the win.
The Sky’s luck wasn’t much better outside, hitting just 5 of 19 shots from three-point range. Quigley was an early bright spot, making four shots in a row to start the game, but she missed seven of her last eight shots.
No single entity was responsible for Chicago’s misfortunes from short range, but if head coach Amber Stocks wants to get any rhythm out of her offense, they need to convert bunnies. No way around it.
Mystics fourth quarter surge
Speaking of the fourth quarter, the Mystics came up clutch in the final frame. Taking advantage of several mismatches, the Mystics out-scored the Sky 24-14 in the period, turning what was a tight battle in their favor. Delle Donne scored nine of her game-high 21 points in the fourth, including a three-pointer from the top of the key to snuff out any hope of a Chicago rally.
Washington’s bench offered plenty of support as well. Tianna Hawkins finished with 12 points and nine rebounds, and Ivory Latta added 10 points. Hawkins hit a pair of big buckets in the fourth quarter, with a turnaround jumper in transition and a put-back off a Cloud miss.
Mystics fans should be pleased with the box score. Their depth faces a considerable test with Emma Meeseman taking roughly a month off due to commitments with the Belgian national team.
Ruffin-Pratt steps up
A potential source of compensation for Meeseman’s absence is Tierra Ruffin-Pratt. In the midst of the hoopla surrounding Delle Donne, Ruffin-Pratt notched her first career double-double. With 15 points and 10 rebounds, the fifth-year veteran put in grunt work for the Mystics before Delle Donne took over in the fourth.
Ruffin-Pratt had struggled before Wednesday, shooting just 18.8 percent in the first three games of the season. Although a 5-of-11 clip against the Sky isn’t the most dazzling figure, the 26-year-old displayed a level of aggression the Mystics may need while Meeseman is away.
Ruffin-Pratt’s growth has been gradual throughout her career. She may not be a double-double threat every game, but with Delle Donne and Kristi Toliver still learning the nuances of Mike Thibault’s system, Ruffin-Pratt has the continuity to parlay Wednesday’s performance into something bigger.