WASHINGTON (AP) – The Connecticut Sun know they’ll get to play two games at home. The Washington Mystics hope to have Elena Delle Donne back for both of them.
Jonquel Jones scored 32 points and grabbed 18 rebounds, and the Sun took advantage of Delle Donne’s early injury exit to beat the Mystics 99-87 in Game 2 of the WNBA Finals on Tuesday night and even the series.
“This was our goal, to steal a win on their floor,” said Sun guard Jasmine Thomas. “And now we get to go home and play two in a row.”
Alyssa Thomas added 21 points and 12 rebounds, and Courtney Williams had 22 points for the Sun, who dominated the paint after the 6-foot-5 Delle Donne departed in the first quarter with back spasms.
The recently crowned league MVP, who averaged 19.5 points and 8.2 rebounds this season, will have an MRI Wednesday.
“She’s just had, kind of ongoing, late-in-the-season tightness,” said Mystics coach Mike Thibault. “We’ve been able to treat it and it’s responded pretty well. But it’s the one nightmare I’ve had the last month, is seeing her lying on her back.”
Connecticut outrebounded Washington 41-27 overall and 17-6 on the offensive glass. Jones, who didn’t have an offensive board in the first game, had a WNBA Finals record nine. She also only took eight shots in the series opener, which Connecticut lost 95-86.
“I was disappointed in Game 1,” said Jones, who had the most points in the finals since 2011 when Angel McCoughtry had 38 and Seimone Augustus 36. “Disappointed with my lack of getting offensive boards, I had to make a change.”
In Game 2, Emma Meeseman scored 22 points off the bench for Washington after spelling Delle Donne early in the first quarter and Tianna Hawkins added 16. Washington’s bench outscored Connecticut’s 52-9.
Kristi Toliver was the Mystics’ only starter in double figures with 13 points. Delle Donne finished scoreless after taking just two early shots.
“She’s such a big part of what they do. You don’t want to wish injury on anyone, but we knew it was a chance to steal one here,” Jones said.
Even so, after Connecticut led by as many as 14 points in the second quarter, the Mystics fought back from a 10-point halftime deficit to tie it briefly.
Aerial Powers converted a three-point play before adding a slashing layup on Toliver’s feed to cut it to 71-69 late in the third to complete a 7-0 run. Toliver’s runner evened it at 76-all with 8:14 left in the game.
The Sun responded with a 6-0 spurt to take the lead for good. Jones hit a putback before Williams added a pair of inside buckets, the latter after two offensive rebounds from Jones, to make it 82-76.
“J.J. was going crazy today,” Williams said. “I told her I felt like I could put up the ball from half court and she was going to look out for me and get the rebound.”
EVERY MINUTE COUNTS
Thomas has now played all 40 minutes of the series. Her average of 36 minutes this postseason leads all players who have played in multiple playoff games.
“She just is so important to us,” explained coach Curt Miller. “She anchors our defense. … I don’t think there’s a better defender in the league.”
FIRST HALF FOLLEY
Thibault thought his team eventually reacted well to Delle Donne’s departure, but only allowing the Sun a 12-2 run in the first quarter and another 11-0 stretch in the second.
“I thought we got deflated when Elena went out,” Thibault said. “It took us too long to recover from that and say, ‘OK, we can still win this.'”
Sun: Jones passed her Game 1 scoring total of 12 points when she hit a layup 4:25 left in the first half to reach 14. She had 18 points and 10 rebounds by halftime. … G Layshia Clarendon (right ankle) did not play after Miller said Monday she was questionable for the game. She hasn’t seen game action since June 16.
Mystics: Delle Donne also missed the teams’ first regular season meeting in 2019 with knee soreness, an 84-69 Sun victory on May 25. … C LaToya Sanders picked up a technical for a defensive 3-second violation with 39 seconds left in the first half, and Hawkins committed the same offense midway through the third quarter.
The series shifts to Connecticut’s Mohegan Sun Arena for Game 3 on Sunday afternoon.