The last time Elena Delle Donne was healthy for the Mystics, Washington’s spread offense absolutely overwhelmed the Sparks defensive scheme. L.A.’s pressure at the point of attack would spring leaks for open 3-pointers, and the Mystics took full advantage with their precise ball movement.
As a result, when the Sparks played Washington with Delle Donne in the lineup in 2019, they lost by 29 points each time.
Two years later, the 2019 MVP is finally back, L.A. plays defense the same way, and things got out of hand very quickly for the Sparks. The score didn’t look as bad because the Mystics essentially punted the game after taking a 33-point lead into halftime, but the result was the same in a 78-68 loss. A 24-7 fourth quarter made the score look respectable; Delle Donne’s plus-36 in 18 minutes tells the story quite well, however.
The Mystics scored the first 14 points of the game, slicing and dicing the defense with their passing and 3-point shooting at every position. The Sparks briefly woke up and got to within 16-9, but surrendered another 10-0 run in the first quarter and were never within double digits the rest of the way.
L.A. was putting too many bodies in the middle of the floor and looked perpetually a step behind in rotation. If Washington made two passes on a possession, there was a good chance they’d find an open player and a good shot.
But it wasn’t just the defense that let the Sparks down; their offense was putrid to start. When they did create good looks, they were short on jumpers or had poor finishes at the rim. More often, they made poor decisions, like attacking double teams and settling for deep jumpers instead of trusting their teammates. No starters scored in double figures, and the Sparks shot 4-of-15 in each of the first two quarters.
This loss has significant playoff implications, as the Mystics now have the tiebreaker in playoff seeding, and both teams have 14 losses in the chase for the 8th seed. L.A. needs to wipe away the taste of this game quickly because the team faces the league-leading Connecticut Sun twice later this week.