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2019 Season Review: Washington Mystics

For the Washington Mystics, the 2019 WNBA season ended in confetti and celebration on their home court after winning their first title in franchise history. How they got there was no surprise. During the entire course of the season, the Mystics dominated while statistically boasting one of the greatest offenses in WNBA history. During the season, they averaged the most points, field goals made, three-pointers made (including a single-game record with 18) and assists per game, while also leading the league in field goal and free throw percentage. This offensive output helped the Mystics finish with a franchise-best 26-8 record, which earned them the No. 1 seed in the Playoffs. Once in the Playoffs, the Mystics bested the Aces in the Semifinals and advanced to the WNBA Finals for a second consecutive year. After losing to the Storm on the big stage last year, the Mystics avenged their prior loss and defeated the Sun 3-2 in an exhilarating five-game series that came down to the wire.

Considering this, let’s take a look back at the Mystics’ championship season.

Record: 26-8

Finish: 1st

Leaders: Points (Delle Donne, 19.5); Rebounds (Delle Donne, 8.3); Assists (Toliver, 6); Steals (Atkins, 1.5); Blocks (Sanders, 1.4)

Storylines

Run It Back

After being swept 3-0 by the Storm in the 2018 WNBA Finals, the Mystics did not dwell on the past. Instead, the team rallied around a slogan that emerged from the loss, “Run it Back.” For the Mystics, this slogan kept them on track towards their ultimate goal, winning a title. From the moment this slogan was announced, the Mystics showed the league that they meant business. During the 2019 season, the Mystics quickly established themselves as one of the best teams in the league. Led by MVP Elena Delle Donne and an impressive cast of players like Emma Meesseman, Kristi Toliver, Ariel Atkins and Natasha Cloud, the Mystics not only posted their best regular-season record in franchise history but also one of the greatest seasons of all time. Washington finished the regular season with the WNBA’s highest offensive rating ever at 112.9. They entered the playoffs as one of the hottest teams in the league, boasting a 17-2 record in their final 19 games.  The Mystics did not play in Rounds 1 or 2 due to securing the No. 1 seed and faced their first Playoff matchup in the Semifinals against the Las Vegas Aces. They continued to impress, defeating the Aces 3-1, and setting up for a WNBA Finals matchup against the No. 2 seed Connecticut Sun. In a back-and-forth battle, one in which MVP Elena Delle Donne spent time on and off the court battling through multiple herniated discs, the Mystics came out on top in a winner-take-all Game 5 of the WNBA Finals. Continuing their strong offensive output from the regular season, the Mystics posted a 114.2 offensive rating in the postseason. It was the icing on the cake for an already magical season, and was even more special for longtime WNBA head coach Mike Thibault. Already the winningest coach in league history, Thibault was able to add to his resume the one thing he’d been missing, a championship. From start to finish, the objective for the Mystics was very simple, run it back.

In 2019, they did just that.

EDD’s Historic Season

Already one of the most accomplished and dominant players in the league, Elena Delle Donne took her game to a new level in 2019. During the regular season, Delle Donne had yet another stellar season, averaging 19.5 points, 8.3 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game. Although this stat line looks on par with her year-by-year production throughout her career, a deeper look into her statistics shows how historic of a season 2019 was for her. In 2019, Delle Donne shot 51.5% from the field, 43% from three-point range and 97.4% from the charity stripe. These impressive shooting percentages put Delle Donne in the 50-40-90 club, making her the only WNBA player to join a list of eight NBA in the exclusive club. Delle Donne went on to earn her second MVP award and later secured her first-ever WNBA championship. Between joining the 50-40-90 club, receiving the MVP award and winning her first title, 2019 was a season to remember for EDD.

EM-V-P

After sitting out the entire 2018 WNBA season to play for Belgium in the 2018 FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup tournament, Emma Meesseman returned to the Mystics in 2019. During the regular season, Meesseman largely served a bench role and averaged 13.1 points and 4.2 rebounds per game. Once the WNBA Playoffs came around, however, Meesseman turned into a completely different player. In the first two Semifinals games against the Aces, Meesseman led the Mystics to victory behind 27-point and 30-point outings, while shooting above 57% from the field during the two-game stretch. After defeating the Aces in the Semifinals, Meesseman continued to shine on the biggest stage, surpassing 20 points in three of the five Finals games, including a clutch Game 5 performance in which she recorded a team-high 22 points and hit big shots down the stretch en route to the Mystics’ title victory. On the series, Meesseman averaged 17.8 points and 4.6 rebounds per game and became the first reserve player in league history to win WNBA Finals MVP. Although Meesseman’s breakout performance in the playoffs may have come as a surprise to many, it did not shock head coach Mike Thibault, who multiple times cited Meesseman as the missing piece.

Looking Forward

On the heels of their first title in franchise history, the future is bright as ever for the Washington Mystics. Boasting one of the most impressive rosters in the league, the Mystics are set to return much of the same lineup as their championship-winning team in 2019. After dealing with multiple herniated discs in her back and playing through the injury in the Finals, Delle Donne will have the entire offseason to recover and heal from the injury. With the 2019 MVP hopefully fully healthy in 2020, the Mystics will yet again be led by one of the best players in the league. Outside of Delle Donne, the Mystics have a variety of young talent that continues to develop, including WNBA Finals 2019 MVP Emma Meesseman and 2018 first-round pick Ariel Atkins. Along with returning a roster that produced the best offensive rating in WNBA history, the Mystics have the No. 12 pick in the WNBA Draft and could still look to improve via free agency. Although they already ran it back this past season, the Mystics could be in line to do it again in 2020.