Washington Mystics vs. Atlanta Dream: 8:00pm ET ESPN 2
The Washington Mystics held off a late fourth-quarter surge by the Atlanta Dream to take game one of the WNBA semifinals 87-84. Elena Delle Donne finished with a 32-point, 13-rebound double-double and a perfect 10-10 from the free throw line.
The Mystics will attempt a road sweep tonight as the two teams face-off in round two. But what will it take for Atlanta to even the series? Here are the keys to the game:
– High Percentage Shots: Washington struggled shooting the ball despite a 42.3-percent effort from the three-point line in game one. Getting Kristi Toliver going early will be important, and continuing to go to Delle Donne as she is the dominant offensive force of this team. But as a whole, better shot selection and rhythm in game two.
– Defense: Putting together a 40-minute effort on the defensive end of the floor and allowing that to fuel their offensive. This also includes limiting Atlanta's offensive rebound opportunities and second chance points. This is a defensive series and will come down to who can get the most consecutive stops.
– Get to the Free Throw Line: Being aggressive and getting themselves to the free throw ling, in such a close series, plays a crucial role. The Mystics shot 100-percent from charity stripe on 20-20 shooting in game one and need to continue to rely on that strength to edge out another road victory.
– Defend the Thee-Point Line: Everything with the Atlanta Dream starts and ends with the defensive end of the floor. Although they held Washington to just 39-percent from the field, they struggled contesting and defending the three-point line.
– Forcing Turnovers: Atlanta averages 7.6 steals per game (3rd), but game up with none in game one. It will be important to fly around, pressure and not play on their heels in game two. Forcing turnovers and allowing their defensive to fuel their offense.
– Win the Battle of the Boards: Atlanta is one of the best rebounding teams in the league, especially on the offensive end. They average close to ten offensive rebounds a game and need to be aggressive when the shot goes up, creating second chance opportunities and free throw opportunities for themselves.
The newly named 2018 WNBA Coach of the Year, Nicki Collen, will rally the troops and pull out the much-needed home win. It will be done on the defensive end of the floor with consecutive stops and a strong rebounding effort. I expect Tiffany Hayes to be a little more consistent offensively throughout the course of the game and respond from a somewhat slower start in game one.
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