Delle Donne, Atkins ques­tion­able for Game 3

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - MYSTICS - By Howard Fendrich

UN­CASVILLE, CONN. — Wash­ing­ton Mys­tics coach Mike Thibault says his says his team is pre­pared to play the piv­otal Game 3 of the WNBA Fi­nals with­out league MVP Elena Delle Donne and guard Ariel Atkins.

The pair com­bined for 43 points last week in lead­ing the Mys­tics to a nine-point open­ing-game win, but both were listed as ques­tion­able with back spasms as the se­ries re­sumes on Sun­day tied at a game apiece.

The 6-foot-5 Delle Donne, who av­er­aged 19.5 points and 8.2 re­bounds this sea­son, is suf­fer­ing from a her­ni­ated disc that is pinch­ing a nerve in her back. She left Tues­day’s 99-87 Game 2 loss with­out scor­ing a point af­ter play­ing only a few min­utes in the first quar­ter.

Thibault said that Atkins, who had 21 points on 6 of 7 shoot­ing in Game 1, bent down at some point on Thurs­day night and could not stand up again.

Both play­ers trav­elled with the Mys­tics to Con­necti­cut, but were re­ceiv­ing med­i­cal treat­ment on their backs while their team­mates prac­ticed on Satur­day.

“I’m not count­ing on them play­ing,” Thibault said. ”I know (Con­necti­cut Sun coach Curt Miller) thinks I’m mak­ing this stuff up. I wish I was. Our team is pre­par­ing to play to­mor­row with­out ei­ther player.”

With­out Delle Donne’s in­side pres­ence, Con­necti­cut dom­i­nated in the paint in Game 2, out­re­bound­ing Wash­ing­ton 41-27. Sun for­ward Jon­quel Jones scored 32 points and grabbed 18 re­bounds, in­clud­ing a Fi­nals record nine on the of­fense end of the court.

Mys­tics for­ward Emma Meese­man, who scored 23 points Tues­day, said the team has made some de­fen­sive ad­just­ments to deal with Jones if Delle Donne can’t play on Sun­day.

“It’s go­ing to be a team de­fense,” she said. “She has to see that it’s one against five, not one against one.”

Delle Donne has dealt with ill­nesses and in­juries through­out her ca­reer. She has bat­tled chronic Lyme disease since col­lege and had back is­sues that also lim­ited her in the Fi­nals when she played in Chicago in 2014.

Miller said he thinks in a best-of-five Fi­nals she will do what­ever is nec­es­sary to play on Sun­day.

“We’ll see how 100 per­cent she is, but she’s go­ing to play,” Miller said. “This is a big mo­ment for their fran­chise. It’s a big mo­ment for her. She’s go­ing to play and (Best-of-5; x-if nec­es­sary) Wash­ing­ton 1, Con­necti­cut 1 Last Sun­day:

Last Tues­day: Sun­day: Tues­day: x-Thurs­day: we’re pre­pared for that.”

This will be the first WNBA Fi­nals game at the Mo­he­gan Sun arena since Thibault coached the Sun and led them to back-to­back Fi­nals in 2004 and 2005. Sun­day’s game is sold out.

Both teams and both coaches are look­ing for their first ti­tles.

Sun guard Court­ney Wil­liams, who has av­er­aged 24 points over the first two games of the Fi­nals, was asked if it would mean any less to win it with Delle Donne on the side­lines.

“If we win, we win; I don’t care how we win” she said. ”If she plays, if she don’t play. It doesn’t mat­ter to me, as long as we win.”

THE WASH­ING­TON POST

Elena Delle Donne’s sta­tus for Sun­day’s Game 3 of the WNBA Fi­nals re­mains un­cer­tain fol­low­ing the di­ag­no­sis of a her­ni­ated disk suf­fered Tues­day night.

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