On the same weekend that the National Air and Space Museum commemorated the 50th anniversary of American astronauts landing on the moon, a WNBA All-Star was ready for launch in the nation’s capital.
Elena Delle Donne powered the Washington Mystics to two important wins, 95-88 at Indiana in overtime on Friday and 93-65 against Atlanta on Sunday, to snap a three-game losing streak. The fact that she was wearing a mask to protect her nose—broken two weeks ago when she took an arm to the face against Los Angeles—was apparently of no consequence. Even by Delle Donne’s lofty standards, she had a stellar weekend, especially shooting the basketball.
Entering the weekend, Delle Donne ranked ninth in the WNBA in points per game, fourth in rebounds per game, and 13th in blocks. She averaged 15.8 points on 46% shooting from the field, 35% on 3-pointers, and 96% on free throws. She also added 8.2 rebounds, 2.3 assists, and just 1.2 turnovers in over 27 minutes per game. The result was a lofty offensive rating of 109.7, fourth-best in the league, and her team’s offensive rating has been nearly seven points better with her on the court.
On the other side of the ball, Delle Donne’s work has gotten far less attention, but the Mystics have been over 11 points better defensively this season with her on the court. She ranked 32nd in the league in defensive rating (91.0) entering the weekend, which put her ahead of eight of the nine returning players from the 2018 WNBA All-Defensive Teams. Delle Donne also averaged 6.7 defensive rebounds (third in the league), 1.2 blocks (13th), and 0.8 steals per game.
On Friday in Indiana, Delle Donne took her game to another stratosphere to help the Mystics survive the Fever’s upset bid. She scored 28 points, including the game-tying shot with 6.9 seconds left in regulation. She hit 10 of 22 shots, including three 3-pointers and all five of her free throws. And she showed why the Mystics social media team often calls her “Elena Double Double,” pulling down 15 rebounds. As if that wasn’t enough, she added four blocks, one assist, and zero turnovers in 35 minutes.
The performance improved nearly all of her season averages, giving her the top efficiency rating (20.8) in the league and the fifth-best scoring average entering Sunday’s game. Honored before the game as an All-Star, she then showed why she was the league’s leading vote-getter, dropping another 28 points in an even more efficient performance. She made 10 of 13 shots, including all four 3-pointers and all four free throws she attempted. She added 8 rebounds, one steal, and one block and committed a single turnover.
Delle Donne finished her weekend with a +15 rating in two games that the Mystics had to win to keep pace near the top of the standings. Just as important, Washington needed the wins to generate some momentum heading into the All-Star break. Point guard Natasha Cloud said on Sunday that the team’s goal was to win its last three games before the break, and the weekend sweep makes them 2-0 heading into Wednesday’s matinee at Minnesota.
One more thing: Delle Donne is not simply padding her stats against overmatched teams or in blowouts. In clutch time—defined as when the teams are separated by less than five points in the last five minutes of a game—Delle Donne averages 3.8 clutch points on 60% shooting from the field. That scoring average ranks sixth in the league this season, and it doesn’t hurt that she has hit every free throw she has attempted in clutch time.
For her career, Delle Donne ranks second all-time with 20.2 points per game, 21st with 6.9 rebounds per game, and third with a 28.0 career efficiency rating. She has been selected to start in six of the past seven All-Star Games, including 2019. After Sunday’s game, High Post Hoops’ Lindsay Gibbs opined, “Masked Delle Donne for MVP, unmasked Delle Donne as runner up.”
To put it simply, Elena Delle Donne is one of the stars of the WNBA, not just among active players, but also in league history. Yet, somehow, she has found another gear in her past two games, and Indiana and Atlanta were powerless to stop it. On Sunday, Natasha Cloud summed things up best when she told the media, “She’s the MVP in every sense, both on and off the court.”
All stats are from WNBA.com unless otherwise noted.
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