The Washington Post

Pow­ers and Hawkins spark Mys­tics

MYS­TICS 86, WINGS 62

- BY AVA WAL­LACE ava.wal­lace@wash­post.com Sports · Basketball · Washington Mystics · Washington · Elena Delle Donne · Women's National Basketball Association · University of Notre Dame · Women's Basketball · Dallas Wings · Arike Ogunbowale

Aerial Pow­ers re­sponded to the first postgame ques­tion with a sound in­stead of words, be­gin­ning her an­swer to a query about how she was feel­ing af­ter fac­ing her old team by tak­ing a deep breath.

“Wheeeeeeew,” she whis­tled as she breathed out be­fore un­furl­ing a Cheshire-cat grin. “I’m feel­ing pretty good.”

Pow­ers wasn’t just re­act­ing to scor­ing a sea­son-high 18 points and stick­ing it to the Dal­las Wings, whom the Wash­ing­ton Mys­tics de­feated, 86-62, on Sun­day af­ter­noon at En­ter­tain­ment and Sports Arena. Pow­ers, who came back four days ago from a gluteal in­jury, also needed a deep breath af­ter go­ing on an 11-point tear in the fourth quar­ter.

“I think if she had played any longer she would have needed oxy­gen,” Coach and Gen­eral Man­ager Mike Thibault joked.

For the Mys­tics, Pow­ers’s out­burst — cou­pled with fel­low bench player Tianna Hawkins’s ca­reer-high 21 points — was noth­ing to laugh about. They de­pended on Pow­ers and Hawkins to jolt a sub­dued squad back to life and lead it past a phys­i­cal Dal­las team hun­gry for its first win. The Mys­tics im­proved to 4-1, and Dal­las fell to 0-4.

Three other Mys­tics play­ers reached dou­ble fig­ures — Elena Delle Donne (14 points, nine re­bounds), Kristi To­liver (14 points, six as­sists) and Natasha Cloud (13 points) — but it was the en­ergy and ef­fi­ciency from Hawkins and Pow­ers that led the way in an oth­er­wise funky of­fen­sive out­ing for Wash­ing­ton.

“It’s a lux­ury to have mul­ti­ple play­ers that can do mul­ti­ple things and set up for you,” To­liver said. “You don’t want one or two peo­ple hav­ing to carry the load for 34 games; that’s go­ing to wear you down when it mat­ters the most.”

The Mys­tics had their slow­est start of the young sea­son with a 15-point first quar­ter and looked out of sync well into the se­cond. As the best of­fen­sive team in the WNBA — av­er­ag­ing 90.5 points in its first four con­tests — Wash­ing­ton’s chem­istry had been ob­vi­ous in its crisp ball move­ment and com­mu­ni­ca­tion, both of which had led to good shot se­lec­tion.

But Sun­day, in the team’s third game in five days, the Mys­tics sim­ply looked tired. Hawkins and Pow­ers made a dif­fer­ence af­ter check­ing in at the end of the first quar­ter, end­ing the half with a com­bined 12 points and zero missed shots.

“I think it’s just be­ing able to hus­tle; it makes me feel good that I’m out there be­ing pro­duc­tive by hus­tling, and I think that car­ried over to the of­fen­sive side,” Hawkins said.

Hawkins also took ad­van­tage of be­ing on the floor with Delle Donne — the two have played to­gether less of­ten than they did last sea­son, with Hawkins usu­ally com­ing off the bench in the se­cond quar­ter as Delle Donne takes a breather.

The Wings focused on Delle Donne all day, even­tu­ally frus­trat­ing the mellow for­ward so much that she screamed in the face of a ref­eree whom she be­lieved missed a foul call in the third quar­ter and earn­ing a tech­ni­cal foul. But all that de­fen­sive pres­sure cre­ated op­por­tu­ni­ties for Hawkins, who shot 7 for 9 from the field, in­clud­ing 3 for 5 on three-point­ers.

“She spa­ces the floor, so if she and Elena are in to­gether, both post play­ers can shoot three­p­oint shots, so now it opens up the lane. It gives us of­fen­sive rebounding an­gles, which Tianna also does,” Thibault said.

Pow­ers’s three-pointer tied the score at 22 with just over eight min­utes left in the first half. The Mys­tics built a dou­ble-digit lead late in the third quar­ter and fi­nally got com­fort­able in the fourth when a jumper from To­liver and a three from Pow­ers put them up 75-60. Pow­ers let loose a roar when her ball swished through the net and Dal­las called a time­out.

“I was just like, ‘Yes, let’s go, fi­nally!’ ” she said. “And I’ve been work­ing on my three-point­ers and ev­ery­thing, so to see that go down wide open? Man, it just felt good. I felt like I had it go­ing. I got a lit­tle hyped.”

Wash­ing­ton held Dal­las to 42 points over the fi­nal three quar­ters. The Wings lost top draft pick Arike Ogun­bowale, a star at Notre Dame, when the guard sprained an an­kle in the se­cond quar­ter and did not re­turn. Glory John­son led Dal­las with 15 points, but she was no match for Wash­ing­ton’s depth.

“Some­body asked me the other day what our bench would be like with Emma gone,” Thibault said, re­fer­ring to for­ward Emma Meesse­man’s ab­sence from the team to play in the Euro­pean bas­ket­ball cham­pi­onships. “Twenty-one [points] from one, 18 from an­other . . . . You have nights when teams try to take our your best play­ers — they dou­bled Elena al­most the en­tire night — and we found other peo­ple.”

 ?? KATHER­INE FREY/THE WASH­ING­TON POST ?? Wash­ing­ton’s Aerial Pow­ers shoots over Glory John­son of Dal­las in the se­cond half of her 18-point out­ing against her former team.
KATHER­INE FREY/THE WASH­ING­TON POST Wash­ing­ton’s Aerial Pow­ers shoots over Glory John­son of Dal­las in the se­cond half of her 18-point out­ing against her former team.

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