- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 8, 2019

After another three-game road trip on the West Coast, the Washington Mystics seemed glad to be home again.

Elena Delle Donne led all players with 22 points and eight rebounds and the Mystics held on for a 91-78 win over the Indiana Fever Thursday night.

The Mystics posted their seventh win in their last eight games and moved to 16-7, drawing within a half-game of the Connecticut Sun for first place in the WNBA.

Emma Meesseman and Aerial Powers came off the bench to add 19 and 14 points, respectively. Kristi Toliver couldn’t get her shots to fall but facilitated the offense, posting a game-high 11 assists.

“First game home from a road trip seems to always be a struggle and it’s hard, and we kind of fought our way through it,” Mystics coach Mike Thibault said. “I thought our defense was up and down. But it’s a really good win. Every win at home to protect home-court right now is good.”

Meesseman, Delle Donne and center LaToya Sanders shared the court at one point, giving the Mystics’ “big” lineup some run. The bigs all had strong outings: Meesseman went 8-for-10 from the floor, and Sanders finished the game with 16 points on 8-for-11 shooting.

“I get in some extra shooting with the coaches, especially on game days. Just trying to get my rhythm back,” Sanders said, before adding a smile. “My mom came in town, so whenever she’s in town I’m always in a good mood.”

Delle Donne said the “big” lineup got off to a slow start but praised Meesseman for her role in the win.

“As the game went on we were able to kinda get comfortable with it, get people the ball in the right position. Emma was really able to get confident, get going, so I think we’ll try to work on it a little bit more and it’ll just continue to improve,” Delle Donne said.

The Mystics leapt out to a 15-2 lead and held a nine-point advantage after one quarter. But Indiana chipped away with several trips to the free throw line and two Kelsey Mitchell 3-pointers, and the Fever eventually took their first lead of the game, 40-38, late in the half. Washington ripped off six straight points and led by only two at halftime.

But the Mystics were able to create some breathing room in the third. Natasha Cloud hit a pair of long 3-pointers early and Sanders made three field goals in a three-minute span. Meesseman nailed a tough jumper around her defender to spark a 10-2 run late in the period.

“We try to practice with every possible lineup. So I feel like I’m used to playing with everybody on this team,” Meesseman said.

The Fever couldn’t make a strong enough push in the fourth to catch up. Mitchell led Indiana (8-16) with 18 points.

The Mystics play twice more in this weeklong homestand, Sunday at 3 p.m. against the Minnesota Lynx and Wednesday at 8 p.m. against the Seattle Storm.

• Adam Zielonka can be reached at azielonka@washingtontimes.com.

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