WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Washington Mystics survived a scare by the New York Liberty 80-77 on Thursday night, thanks to a buzzer-beater by Elena Delle Donne. The winning play began with 0.6 seconds on the clock, and turned a rather ugly game into one that WNBA fans won’t soon forget.
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For most of the evening, this was a game to forget.
The energy at Capital One Arena was subdued and disengaged for most of the game, both on the court and in the stands. The game began with a moment of silence for the victims of the shooting at the Capital Gazette, a newspaper located in Annapolis, Maryland, just about 45 minutes from the arena, where five employees were shot just hours prior to tip off.
Then, when it was time for the game to start, it didn’t. There was a 35-minute delay due to a shot-clock malfunction.
So, by the time the game began, it almost felt like an afterthought. For pretty much four full quarters, it was a fairly typical physical, defensive, and disjointed game between the Liberty and the Mystics. The Mystics — who are having a much better season than the Liberty — had no flow on offense, and were being bullied around in the paint. Every time they nabbed a lead, the Liberty would chip their way back into the game.
After the Mystics missed seven shots in a row in the fourth quarter, the Liberty were able to finally pull ahead with 2:47 left in the game thanks to an Epiphanny Prince three pointer. For the rest of the game, the Liberty were able to match the Mystics shot for shot. Tina Charles tied the game 77-77 with a hook shot with only 7 seconds left in the game. Suddenly, it looked like a game that started late was going to extend well into the night.
But the Mystics had other ideas. On the other end of the floor, Kristi Toliver took a long three-pointer with one second left on the clock, but it was way off. To most, it looked like Sugar Rodgers fouled Toliver on the play, which would have sent Toliver to the free-throw line with a chance to win it. However, the refs didn’t see it that way, and after a lengthy review, they ruled that Rodgers merely tipped the ball. However, since it went out of bounds after the play, it was Mystics’ ball, with 0.6 seconds left.
From there, head coach Mike Thibault drew up a beautiful play that involved a Kristi Toliver cut to the basket, which pulled the defenders off of Delle Donne and left her stunningly wide open. From there, the only question was whether she could get the shot off in time, and she did.
“Coach drew up a killer play, then [LaToya Sanders] set up a monster screen, and they got caught up in it, and I was open and knew I had to let it fly very quickly, and I just let it go, and luckily hit my first three in the game,” Delle Donne said in the locker room. “It’s about time, right?”
Her teammates had a different takeaway
“You leave the best player in the WNBA that open? Thank you,” Tayler Hill exclaimed.