Takeaways: Elena Delle Donne reaches 50-40-90, a WNBA first

WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 8: Elena Delle Donne #11 of the Washington Mystics drives to the basket against the Chicago Sky on September 8, 2019 at the St Elizabeths East Entertainment & Sports Arena in Washington, DC. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 8: Elena Delle Donne #11 of the Washington Mystics drives to the basket against the Chicago Sky on September 8, 2019 at the St Elizabeths East Entertainment & Sports Arena in Washington, DC. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images) /
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Another milestone for the great Elena Delle Donne

WASHINGTON — The Washington Mystics took care of business Sunday afternoon, defeating Chicago 100-86 to head into the playoffs on a six-game win streak.

The Mystics have won 17 of their past 19 games and finished the season 14-3 at home and 12-5 on the road. Those results were good enough to get Washington the top seed in the WNBA playoffs and a double bye into the semifinals.

Against Chicago, Mystics forward Elena Delle Donne also put the finishing touches on her MVP campaign with 25 points, 12 rebounds, 3 assists, and 3 blocks—including the 300th block of her career. She made nine of her 12 shots, including one 3-pointer, and all six of her free throws. Over the entire season, Delle Donne averaged 19.5 points, 8.3 rebounds, 2.2 assists, and 1.3 blocks in 29 minutes per game. She also became the first player in league history to shoot 50% from the field, 40% from 3-point range, and 90% from the free throw line over a single season, (minimum 100/25/50 makes).

When told of Delle Donne’s historic accomplishment, guard Ariel Atkins replied, “I want to say I’m shocked, but look at what she’s done. I mean, she’s so freaking consistent. … Those are pretty huge numbers and to be that consistent and for the defenses to throw what they throw at her every night, I mean, she’s Elena Delle Donne. When you hear that name, it’s a household name for a reason.”

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Or several reasons. Delle Donne is a six-time All-Star, three-time First Team All-WNBA selection, and the 2015 WNBA MVP and scoring champion. Yet she’s had a stellar season even by her lofty standards. Entering Sunday, she had the highest rebounding percentage (16.9%) and offensive rating (128) of her career. Her player efficiency rating, effective field goal percentage, and win shares also exceeded any previous season’s numbers except 2015. Minnesota Lynx guard Seimone Augustus gushed, “I can’t even put into words how well she’s been playing. … The way she has been playing is [like] none other. That’s the MVP for me.”

Point guard Natasha Cloud has dubbed herself Delle Donne’s “campaign manager” for the MVP award, “but there’s no campaign,” she said. “Anyone with eyes can see that she’s the MVP.” Immediately after Sunday’s game, while Delle Donne was being interviewed on the court, Cloud used a towel to urge on a spirited crowd at Washington’s Entertainment and Sports Arena as they chanted, “M-V-P!” In a quieter moment, after most of the media had cleared out of the Mystics’ locker room, Cloud showed those remaining two photos on her phone of a sweatshirt she recently ordered. It has a picture of Delle Donne on the front and “MVP” on the back. “Y’all know I’m gonna be out here in these streets wearing it,” Cloud said with a big grin on her face.

Natasha Cloud holds up an Elena Delle Donne mask. (Domenic Allegra photo)
Natasha Cloud holds up an Elena Delle Donne mask. (Domenic Allegra photo) /

Delle Donne doesn’t know about the sweatshirt yet, but it was clear that the fan support meant a lot to her. “Tonight, [the fans] were crazy!” she exclaimed. The MVP chants were “something that gives you chills. I absolutely love this city, and there’s nowhere I would rather be. And for them to have my back like that really means a lot, and it was a special moment.”

The Mystics will open their postseason at home on Tuesday, September 17, and Delle Donne said on Sunday that the Mystics are “super confident” about what lies ahead. Despite playing at less than full strength in previous playoffs, including the 2018 Finals, Delle Donne has averaged 18.6 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 2.1 assists in 27 games. The Mystics will have to wait a week to learn their opponent, but whoever emerges from the single-elimination rounds will face a task that has been nearly impossible in Delle Donne’s seven seasons: slow down the 2015 and presumptive 2019 WNBA MVP.

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