The Washington Mystics used a strong fourth-quarter surge and the interior dominance of series MVP Emma Meesseman to overcome a second-half Connecticut Sun lead, then confidently held the relentless visitors at arm’s length down the stretch to win Game 5, 89–78, and capture the franchise’s first ever WNBA championship.
The Mystics overcame the horribly timed herniated disc of captain Elena Delle Donne, and a tenacious Sun team led by Jonquel Jones and Courtney Williams, to ultimately do what they were supposed to do, which was finally deliver long-awaited titles to Delle Donne and head coach Mike Thibault. Thibault, the winningest coach in WNBA history, has been named Coach of the Year three times, but had never won a championship before Thursday night. Delle Donne, the reigning league MVP, was making her third career Finals appearance. The normal elation of victory was infused with gushing relief on behalf of two titans of the sport, finally getting over the hump, with all the validation that entails.
Delle Donne was big in the finale—21 points and nine rebounds in 37 huge minutes—but the star of Washington’s second-half turnaround and the deserving MVP was Meesseman, who became the first bench player to win Finals MVP in WNBA history. Washington’s offense in the second half almost without fail involved Meesseman setting a screen along the baseline and then sealing her defender for an entry pass, while the other Mystics players arranged themselves around the arc and on the offense’s weak side. Her steady hand as an offensive anchor helped the Mystics erase a nine-point third-quarter Sun lead, which looked at the time very much like the Sun pulling away. It fell to Meesseman over and over again to salvage late Mystics possessions by winning tough one-on-one battles, and over and over again she delivered:
It was a heroic performance, and while no one who watched it should’ve been very surprised to see her collect the hardware, Meesseman herself seemed shocked by the announcement:
This is the second time a DC sports franchise has won its first ever title in just the last 16 months, after the Capitals won the Stanley Cup Finals in June 2018. Here’s hoping these Mystics players party every bit as hard and as endlessly.