Elena Delle Donne left Game 2 of the WNBA Finals with back spasms after just three minutes in the first quarter Tuesday night, not 24 hours after I (a blithering, cheeky idiot!) proclaimed the Washington Mystics more or less invincible. The Connecticut Sun managed to steal the game on Washington turf, 99-87 to even the series. Wednesday evening, the Mystics announced that Delle Donne’s MRI showed a small disc herniation, leaving her status up in the air for Game 3 in Connecticut.
The league MVP now has a thorough history of infuriatingly bad postseason luck. She suffered a gross-looking knee injury in the middle of last year’s semifinals against the Atlanta Dream, somehow hobbling through it to get the Mystics to the Finals, where they were swept by the Seattle Storm. And in Delle Donne’s first Finals appearance in 2014 with the Chicago Sky, a back injury limited her minutes; the Sky were swept in three games by the Phoenix Mercury.
So, the Mystics may very well be screwed and I may very well end up looking like a total dumbass, which is awesome. There are not many reasons the Mystics or their fans should feel optimistic right now, but here are a few things that might save their championship hopes, and also, my ego: (1) There’s a pretty sizeable four-day gap between Game 2 and Game 3, maybe enough time to get Delle Donne’s injury to a manageable point; (2) the Mystics are the only team in the WNBA with a winning record on the road; (3) without Delle Donne, they’re still the league’s deepest team, and even managed to tie it up late in Game 2. Who’s to say they couldn’t try again?
And still, those thin slivers of reassurance feel lost in a fog of dread. “The one nightmare I’ve had for the last month is seeing her lying on her back,” Mystics coach Mike Thibault said postgame. “I’ve watched that when she was in Chicago. It wasn’t a good sight for them, and it wasn’t a good sight for me now.”