With anticipation high for the return of two-time WNBA MVP Elena Delle Donne, the Washington Mystics host the Seattle Storm on Sunday afternoon with work to do whether they have their star or not.
Delle Donne has not been on the court since leading the Mystics to the 2019 championship while playing with two bulging discs in her back. She earned the second of her two MVPs that season.
Two back surgeries later, Delle Donne is close to a return with an appearance in Sunday’s game a possibility.
The Mystics (8-13) could use the help, losing all three games since play resumed following the Olympic break. They lost a pair of games at Las Vegas before dropping a 77-64 decision at Phoenix on Thursday.
“We have to take care of some business at home,” Mystics head coach Mike Thibault said. “To win three, four, five games would be huge to do that right now. The whole deal for us is to get into the playoffs first and then be playing our best basketball when that happens.”
Washington’s Tina Charles has done her part of late, averaging 23.3 points per game in the three defeats, just under her team-leading 25.7 per-game average.
Charles and the Storm’s Sue Bird have been swapping spots on the WNBA’s all-time scoring list, with Bird currently sixth at 6,500 career points and Charles seventh at 6,496. Now they meet Sunday in a superstar showdown.
The Storm (17-7) have won one of three games that count in the standings since play resumed following the break, although they also emerged victorious in the Commissioner’s Cup title game over the Connecticut Sun on Aug. 12. Bird and fellow gold-medal Olympian Breanna Stewart then rested in an 87-85 overtime loss to the Chicago Sky and an 83-79 setback to the New York Liberty.
With Bird and Stewart back in the fold, the Storm recorded a 99-83 victory over the Liberty on Friday. Stewart scored 17 points while Bird had five assists. Jewell Loyd had 29 points, going 7 of 9 from 3-point range.
“Jewell is great in her role for us when she’s able to focus on scoring and focus on defending and not have to carry a huge load,” coach Noelle Quinn said, according to the Seattle Times. “
“Those last two games (without Bird and Stewart), we had a bigger load for her to carry. She still was giving us her best effort, but the efficiency comes when she has her comrades on her side with her.”
The Mystics and Storm met once this season, with Washington earning an 87-83 victory on June 22. Charles had 34 points and 16 rebounds for the Mystics.
–Field Level Media