- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 8, 2019

UNCASVILLE, Conn. — The Connecticut Sun took control at the opening tipoff, when Jonquel Jones batted the ball to Alyssa Thomas for a basket in the first five seconds of the game. Later the Washington Mystics would admit they weren’t lined up properly, and in short order, they found themselves behind by 18 points.

But all postseason, the Mystics have talked about remaining calm in the most stress-inducing moments of their WNBA playoff run. That’s exactly what they did — until the bitter end.

After a third-quarter Washington comeback, Connecticut beat the Mystics 90-86 on Tuesday in Game 4 of the WNBA Finals, tying the series 2-2 to push it to one winner-take-all contest. Game 5 will be played in the District Thursday at 8 p.m.

Washington took just 10 minutes to erase a 16-point halftime deficit to conclude the third quarter tied at 68. The two sides traded leads throughout the fourth until a Shekinna Stricklen 3-pointer put the Sun ahead 87-84.

Two minutes later, behind 89-86, the Mystics’ last-chance play fell apart with Natasha Cloud missing from under the glass. The Sun rebounded and drew the foul that allowed them to go ahead by four. The Mystics didn’t score for the final 2:10 of the game.



“I think we also had a few open shots that we didn’t hit,” Powers said. “I mean, the ball movement was there, but we didn’t hit a few shots.”

All five Sun starters scored in double figures. Center Jonquel Jones did what she wanted in the paint, finishing with a game-high 18 points and 13 rebounds.

Aerial Powers came off the bench to lead Washington with 15 points. Ariel Atkins had 14, and Cloud finished with 13 points and nine assists.

Elena Delle Donne played 30 minutes after seeing the court in brief spurts with frequent subs in Game 3, as she coped with a herniated disk. She only managed 11 points and five boards.

Emma Meesseman, who entered Thursday as the WNBA playoffs’ leading scorer with 140 total points, went 0-for-5 shooting in the first half but came back to score 12 in the second. She attributed that to the team readjusting how they were playing after halftime.

“We moved the ball more around, we passed more, we moved more,” Meesseman said. “So that’s how I got my open shots that I’m used to. I think I posted maybe too much in the first half, maybe not take the shots that I needed to take.”

Mystics coach Mike Thibault said he was struggling to “get over” how poorly the Mystics started. They committed four fouls and made just 6 of 20 shots, missing both open looks and questionable shot selections.

“I thought we did about everything we could do wrong in the first quarter,” Thibault said. “Our team is known for passing and cutting and screening. It’s not known for having 15 dribbles per possession. I thought that’s what we did in the first quarter.”

Atkins took over on offense midway through the second quarter, scoring nine points on a variety of shots. But she was the only Washington player to score in the final 6:30 of the half, and the Sun took a comfortable 56-40 lead into the locker rooms.

Washington forced its way back into the game to start the second half. Atkins and Kristi Toliver combined for three straight 3-pointers to get the Mystics within one point. The two sides traded baskets for a few minutes, and a Powers driving layup eventually tied it at 68.

With the energy in the arena pulsating for every Connecticut basket or defensive stop, the Mystics continued to hang tough through the fourth quarter until the shots stopped falling.

“Our execution once we got the lead was not great,” Thibault said.

Both teams are seeking their first WNBA title. The Mystics have not won a championship in their 22-year history.

“We live to fight another day. That’s playoff basketball,” Toliver said. “Game 5 is gonna be really fun, and we know we can play a whole lot better, a lot smarter … We keep saying that we haven’t played our best basketball yet, so we have another opportunity to do that and hopefully that day’s on Thursday.”

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