WASHINGTON, D.C.—On Wednesday, Elena Delle Donne rode into Chicago with the Washington Mystics, and led the team to a victory over her old team, the Chicago Sky.
On Friday night, Stefanie Dolson and Kahleah Copper — who were the two Mystics players traded to the Sky in the blockbuster three-team trade deal that sent Delle Donne to D.C. — weren’t able to get even.
The Mystics, who are still a long way from reaching their full potential, dominated the Sky offensively. Five Mystics players were in double figures — Delle Donne leading the way with 20 points, followed by Tayler Hill with 19, Tianna Hawkins and Kristi Toliver with 12, and Ivory Latta with 10.
But most notably, the Mystics outrebounded the height-privileged Sky, 39-32, including 11-3 on the offensive boards.
Starting midway through the second quarter and lasting nearly seven minutes into the third, the Mystics went on a 21-0 run that put this game far out of reach. Though the Sky staged a comeback with 33 points in the fourth quarter, the game never felt in jeopardy. The Mystics hit big shots when they needed down the stretch and ended up winning 88-79.
Tianna Hawkins: Washington’s savior without Emma Meesseman
Emma Meeseman is back in Belgium playing for the national team for much of June, and there was a lot of concern coming into this game about the Mystics would fare without her.
Well, thanks to Tianna Hawkins, they might manage just fine.
While Krystal Thomas actually got the start at center tonight in place of Meeseman, it was Hawkins who provided the inside spark off the bench and the presence in the post that the team so badly needed.
She finished the game 5-10 from the field with 12 points and five rebounds, which aren’t jaw-dropping stats, but at 6’3″ and 192 pounds, she was able to provide the size and physicality inside to counter Dolson and co., and get enough tips off of the backboard to keep many Mystics possessions alive offensively.
Hawkins is in her fourth year in D.C., but she missed the 2015 season due to pregnancy and a big chunk of the 2016 season because of a concussion. She couldn’t be returning to form at a better time.
Don’t sleep on Tayler Hill
Hill was drafted just two spots behind Delle Donne in the star-studded 2013 WNBA Draft, but has been far in Delle Donne’s shadow the past few years.
But now that they’re both on the same team, the spotlight is bright enough for both of them.
While Delle Donne finished with 20 points and was 3-4 from three, she started slowly and continues to struggle to find her place on defense, particularly when any transitions are involved. But Hill stared out hot, and her tenaciousness and quickness on defense balanced out Delle Donne’s struggles.
Hill finished the game with 19 points, including 3-7 from three and 6-6 from the line.
Last year, due to the prevalence of injuries, a lot of the team’s offensive hope was put on HIll’s shoulders, and she stepped up to become a consistent weapon, and one of the most improved players in the WNBA. Now, with Delle Donne taking off some of that pressure, she might just turn into a star.
Vandersloot and Quigley make a big difference
Look, the Chicago Sky have a lot of work to do –they only got three offensive rebounds all game, a stat that should horrify a player like Dolson, and they often looked completely lost and leaderless out on the floor.
However, thanks to the return of Courtney Vandersloot and Allie Quigley from Turkey, they have reason to be optimistic about the future.
Quigley started and scored a team-high 17 points for the Sky in her second game back from Turkey. In her first game back, Vandersloot came off the bench to score 10 points in 22 minutes.
The team has a long way to go until it establishes the chemistry and consistency it needs, and its post play is nothing less than a disappointment so far. But the necessary shooting talent is back on the continent, which is step one.