The Washington Mystics earned a trip to the WNBA Finals for the first time in franchise history Tuesday night in Atlanta. The Mystics beat the Dream in the deciding Game 5, 86-81. The game was tightly contested all night long, but the Mystics pulled out the win.
Tianna Hawkins was the unlikely star for Washington. Hawkins came off the bench and only played for 10 minutes, but took advantage of every second she saw the floor. She scored 17 points while shooting 6-8, including a 3-4 from beyond the arc. Ariel Atkins led the Mystics with 20 points and seven rebounds. Kristi Toliver wasn’t far behind, with 19 points of her own. Mystics star Elena Delle Donne had a relatively quiet night by her standards but still posted a double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds while sporting a knee brace. Although Delle Donne had a quiet night, Hawkins picked up the slack and gave Washington the extra push they needed to reach the WNBA Finals for the first time ever.
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The Atlanta Dream fell just short of their 4th trip to the Finals in franchise history. Atlanta had 5 different players score double-digit points, but nobody truly stood out. Alex Bentley led the Dream with 16 points off the bench. Brittney Sykes and Renee Montgomery each had 15 points. The difference in the game came down to discipline and free throw shooting. Montgomery took 8 of Atlanta’s 9 free throws, while the Mystics shot 19 free throws.
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In the Finals, the Mystics will face the top-seeded Seattle Storm. If Washington can find a player or players to pick up some of Delle Donne’s scoring, they will have success. The fact that Hawkins came off the bench and made such an impact in just 10 minutes of playing time was incredibly lucky for the Mystics. Whoever wins the WNBA Championship will need to have consistency from at least 3 different players. Those 3 players can change from game to game in the series, but one player cannot carry a team to a championship.
The WNBA Finals between the Washington Mystics and Seattle Storm will begin on September 7 and air on ESPN2.