And so, our quest to watch former Marquette guard Natisha Hiedeman’s first season in the WNBA has come to this. Draft pick to cut in camp to free agent signing to waived to claimed to rotation minutes on the second best team to the WNBA Finals. It has been wild, but it might end tonight.
On Sunday afternoon, the Washington Mystics secured a 94-81 victory over Hiedeman’s Connecticut Sun, giving the Mystics a 2-1 lead in this best-of-five series. The Mystics were led by a pair of 20 point performances from Emma Meesseman and Kristi Toliver as the pair combined to bang home seven of their eight long range attempts. That was pretty much the story of the game as Washington connected on 59% of their threes. It seemed like every big movement attempted by the Sun to counter the Mystics’ lead was answered by a triple from one Washington player or another.
If the shooting itself wasn’t raising absolute hell on the Sun, it was providing another quiet benefit. The Sun won Game #2 to a certain extent because Jonquel Jones wasn’t rebounding the ball so much as she was attracting missed shots to her like a magnet. You know what the best way to avoid letting Jones grab rebounds is? Not allowing there to be any rebounds in the first place. Call it strategy or call it luck, but it definitely helped the Mystics, who held Jones to nine points and nine rebounds.
Another major component to Game #3 was the effort of 2109 WNBA MVP Elena Delle Donne. After missing most of Game #2 with a herniated disc, Delle Donne returned to action after a long layoff between games. She wasn’t her usual dynamic self, but 13 points and six rebounds in 26 carefully managed minutes is nothing to sneeze at. When you’re one of EDD’s teammates and you see what she’s going through to get out on the court — the television broadcast showed Delle Donne resecuring the giant wrap around her abdomen at least once — then you can’t help but play a little harder to make sure that you’re doing everything you can to follow in the footsteps of your team’s leader.
But will Delle Donne be able to contribute on short notice? Game #2 was on October 1st, and Game #3 was on October 6th. That’s a lot of time for EDD to rest up. Can she put together 26 minutes of action with just one day off between games? Will she be hampered or slowed down even more than she was on Sunday? What will the Sun do to counter Washington’s opportunity to knock down all of those three-pointers? Will we get a Game #5 back in D.C. on Thursday night?
If you will, one final digression: Why is this game on ESPN2? At the exact same time over on ESPN, they’re showing a preseason game between the Dallas Mavericks and the Oklahoma City Thunder. A preseason game. Look, I get that all the execs in Bristol can show me the ratings data that they have for years and years of NBA preseason games and tell me that they can guarantee that the NBA will outdraw the WNBA tonight. Fine. Cool. Whatever. As the WNBA’s television partner, you could at least do them the favor of putting what could be a deciding game of their championship series on your most heavily distributed channel instead of one channel down. People who really want to watch Mavs/Thunder will find it on ESPN2. It’ll draw just fine over there. Give the WNBA a chance to find new eyeballs, ya jerks.
2019 WNBA Finals
#1 Washington Mystics vs #2 Connecticut Sun
Date: Tuesday, October 8, 2019
Time: 7pm Central
Location: Mohegan Sun Arena, Uncasville, CT