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Live Life Deliberately

Without Elena Delle Donne, Mystics suffer a second straight loss

ARLINGTON, Tex. — Before the Washington Mystics took the court Sunday afternoon, Coach Eric Thibault knew size might be an issue. He was right: At one point in the third quarter, the Dallas Wings had players on the floor who stood 6-foot-7, 6-6 and 6-4 — while the Mystics countered with 6-1 forward Myisha Hines-Allen and four guards.

With starting frontcourt players Elena Delle Donne and Shakira Austin back in Washington, the Mystics were overwhelmed by the Wings’ length in an 89-72 loss. The Mystics (9-7) have dropped two in a row; Sunday was their first game since Delle Donne suffered a left ankle sprain late in Friday’s loss at Atlanta.

“We did well for a quarter in terms of keeping them off the glass, but that’s a tough opponent to be undersized against,” Thibault said. “It’s as big a group as there is in the league.”

Delle Donne is considered day-to-day, and the Mystics expect to get a better feel for her prognosis Monday. Austin suffered a left hip strain a week ago and won’t be reevaluated for two more weeks. Washington is also without Kristi Toliver (plantar fasciitis) and Li Meng (playing overseas).

The Wings (8-8) exploited the mismatch with a 42-26 advantage in points in the paint and won the rebounding battle 54-24; they had 15 offensive boards and 16 second-chance points. The Mystics needed to win on the perimeter but went 4 for 25 from behind the arc while shooting 34.3 percent overall.

I appreciate our effort,” guard Ariel Atkins said. “I’m not the type of person that will come in and be like, ‘Oh, we’re down two people; let’s just do the best that we can,’ because I still think we have everything we need in that room to win.”

Atkins, who attended nearby Duncanville High, led the way with 20 points while playing in front of friends and family. She is two three-pointers from tying Ivory Latta for the franchise record of 308. Brittney Sykes added 15 points, and Tianna Hawkins, who moved into the starting lineup after Austin’s injury, had eight points and 11 rebounds. Amanda Zahui B. (six points, two blocks) started in Delle Donne’s place.

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After they trailed 37-33 at halftime, the game got away from the Mystics in the third quarter. As the Wings outscored the Mystics 30-16 in the period, Arike Ogunbowale, who is tied for second in the WNBA in scoring, poured in 15 points after being shut out in the first half. She finished with 17.

“She is who she is for a reason,” the Mystics’ Shatori Walker-Kimbrough said. “She kind of got off a little bit. I think that’s kind of what got her going — getting to the free throw line. And once she sees one go in, the hoop turned into an ocean.”

Dallas’s Satou Sabally set game highs with 27 points and 15 rebounds, including seven points and five rebounds in that decisive third quarter.

Here’s what else to know about the Mystics’ loss:

The Wings’ Teaira McCowan was issued a flagrant-one foul in the third quarter after getting tangled up with Zahui B. They were fighting for position and got their arms tied up before McCowan shoved Zahui B. to the floor. Sykes ran up to McCowan, and the two exchanged words. Officials called a double foul on McCowan and Zahui B. and added the flagrant after watching the replay.

Sykes, at all of 5-9, stood at center court across from the 6-7 McCowan to start the game. Sykes is one of the more athletic players in the WNBA, and Thibault has turned to her for jump balls with Austin sidelined. Sykes won her third straight opening tip-off Sunday — and said these are the first games she has held the responsibility since she did it her entire sophomore year at Syracuse.

“Not afraid to jump ball,” she said. “It’s been hilarious to see people’s reactions. When we played Atlanta at home and it was my first jump ball, I purposefully walked around Cheyenne [Parker] and dapped everybody up and kept her for last so she could know, ‘Yeah, I’m jumping ball with you.’ She looked at me like, ‘You’re jumping ball?!’ A nice little laughter before we get to work. It’s been cool.”

Li, a rookie guard, helped the Chinese national team defeat Japan, 73-71, to win the Asia Cup on Sunday in Sydney. With the tournament complete, she is in line to return to Washington.

The Mystics get a breather before hosting Indiana at 7 p.m. Friday at Entertainment and Sports Arena.


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