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Michelle: Inside the W: Mystics, Storm Punch Tickets To Finals

Legends have a tendency to do legendary things.

Two hours after the Washington Mystics punched the franchise’s first-ever ticket to the WNBA Finals, the league’s oldest player – not to mention one of its most accomplished, respected and revered – made sure that she would get there to join them. (“Use your legs, Luuuke.”)

Swish Appeal: Analysis: Mystics earn first-ever Finals bid, Storm finally get emphatic win to join them

WaPo: Now that Washington Mystics made WNBA Finals breakthrough, Seattle Storm awaits

Elena Delle Donne sat on a chair in the Washington Mystics’ locker room late Tuesday night at McCamish Pavilion, her left knee wrapped in ice to limit swelling from a bone bruise that, by all accounts, would have kept most players out of the lineup.

She wasn’t about to be only a spectator in the most important game in franchise history, so Delle Donne had slipped on a protective brace and proceeded to play more than 36 minutes in a winner-take-all Game 5 against the Atlanta Dream to send the Mystics to the WNBA Finals for the first time.

Mechelle: No mistake about it: Mystics are headed to first WNBA Finals

It took 20 years, but they are the star-crossed Mystics no more. Washington is going to the WNBA Finals for the first time, thanks to resilience, persistence and — finally — some good breaks going their way.

The Mystics beat the Dream 86-81 in Game 5 of their semifinal series Tuesday at McCamish Pavilion. When they left this building a week ago after a Game 2 loss, the Mystics were feeling upset and worried. Elena Delle Donne had injured her left knee late in that game, and it was hard not to fear the worst.

H.P.H. Delle Donne shines in big moments; Mystics advance to WNBA finals

A small contingent of supporters wearing Washington Mystics red cheered from the corner of McCamish Pavilion. There was three-and-a-half seconds remaining in a decisive Game Five of the WNBA semifinals. Their leader, Elena Delle Donne, had just flushed a pair of free throws to give them a five-point lead over the home team, the Atlanta Dream.

They knew it. The game was sealed — thanks to the 6’5 forward who remained calm when the pressure was at its highest.

SB Nation: The Mystics surrounded Elena Delle Donne with the perfect roster. Now they’re championship bound.

Mystics earn first trip to WNBA Finals with 86-81 win over Dream in Game 5; Storm also advance

How Elena Delle Donne went from potential season-ending injury to WNBA superstar again in 5 days

AJC: Dream’s season ends with Game 5 loss to Mystics

Biz Journals: Atlanta Dream bounced before WNBA Finals

Kevin: Sue Bird’s fourth-quarter heroics help Storm return to WNBA Finals

To reach the WNBA Finals and finally hand Diana Taurasi’s Phoenix Mercury a loss in a deciding game, all the Seattle Storm needed was a huge game from the current MVP and a Taurasi-esque performance from one of her closest friends.

Wins over Dallas and Connecticut in the elimination rounds pushed the Mercury’s record to 13-0 in winner-take-all games with Taurasi. When Phoenix controlled the first half Tuesday, leading by as many as 11 points, the visiting Mercury looked well on their way to making that 14-0.

Sue Bird couldn’t stop the bleeding from her broken nose in Game 4, watching helplessly as her team’s chance to clinch a WNBA Finals berth slipped away in the fourth quarter.

But when back on the floor in the fourth in Game 5, Bird made sure to make her mark. In doing so, she slayed the Phoenix Mercury and her long-time best friend, Diana Taurasi, to take the Storm back to the Finals for the first time since 2010

Rachel Nichols on Sue.
It was the eighth minute of the fourth quarter of Game 5 between the Seattle Storm and the Phoenix Mercury when things began to get all the way screwy, and then all the way deadly, and then, eventually, all the way legendary. Let me tell you what happened Tuesday night. First, though, read these six things, because all of the six things are important for context:
Game photos.
What did Sue do? Highlights.

The Seattle Storm started this season knowing it could be good. In 2014 and 2015, the team failed to make the playoffs. In 2016 and 2017, it was bounced from the postseason in the single-elimination first round. By May of this year, Breanna Stewart, for one, was fed up with losing.

“It’s time to start winning,” the third-year star said then. “I don’t want to come off as crass or cocky or anything like that, but losing sucks. It does. That’s just how I feel about it.”

In Other News
Think Progress: The WNBA deserves better

If you haven’t been paying attention, you’ve truly been missing out. And yet, it’s also hard to blame you — the media gives the WNBA such little exposure that it’s easy to miss even the most thrilling storylines and nail-biting games.

Some of the lack of coverage is owed to the sharp decline in local media in recent years, and some of it is due to missteps by the WNBA. But a lot of it comes down to plain sexism, and the blatant disrespect it begets.

Let’s start by looking at the WNBA’s broadcast partner, ESPN. ESPN pays the WNBA $25 million a year for the right to air its games, so you’d think the network would have a vested interest in promoting the league as much as possible. And yet, on Sunday afternoon, even die-hard WNBA fans who were seeking out the Game 4 semifinal between the Atlanta Dream and Washington Mystics — a game in which 2015 MVP Delle Donne made a miraculous comeback from injury to lead the Mystics over the Dream and force a Game 5 — were left lost and confused.

 

Forbes: WNBA Players Are Simply Asking For A Greater Share Of WNBA Revenues

Sights and Sounds from USA Basketball Women’s National Team Training Camp

Hashtag Basketball: The Connecticut Sun’s 2018 Season

The Connecticut Sun ended the 2018 season with a 21-13 record and earned a single-bye in the playoffs with the #4 seed, only to get bounced in the second round (again) by the Phoenix Mercury (again). What happened this season and what needs to happen going forward? Let’s discuss.

.com: Nurse Makes the Cut for 2018 Team Canada (Yeah, Kia “Jersey!”)

NCAA

UND News: More Prestigious Honors Await Coach McGraw This Fall

Albuquerque News: Women’s basketball: Highly touted Everett could be a star for Lobos

ESPN: Tina Thompson’s storybook career takes her all the way to Naismith HOF

When Tina Thompson was a youngster, she envisioned her grown-up self a lawyer, sitting inside her Los Angeles office, framed Harvard degree on the wall.

She didn’t dream USC would offer her a basketball scholarship. Nor could she have predicted that she would be the first pick in the inaugural WNBA draft, or that she would be integral to the Houston Comets winning the first four league championships.

Thompson didn’t picture herself in a USA basketball uniform. Even as recently as a few years ago, she had no plan to coach, either, but after working as an assistant and later associate head coach at Texas, she’s in the early months of her first head-coaching job at Virginia.

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especially while zipping out to visit the Poppa for a post-birthday celebration. (Dad, btw, became a Liberty fan because I was a Liberty fan. No surprise, the thinks Dolan is a short-sighted putz.)

Anyhoo – between train, walks and yummy food, there were four fab games to keep our basketball-high going strong. What was NOT cool, of course, was the clown show ESPN’s coverage was.

High Post Hoops: Column: ESPN’s no-win situation over WNBA broadcast snafu

Oh, well. Can’t wait for two game 5s to be on ESPN2 and *squints at notes* ESPNews.

WTF.

BUT, if you’re cranky about this and are using social media to let the world know, don’t forget to TAG those who make the decisions: @wnba @WNBAPrez @ESPN_WomenHoop @espn @CStiffESPN @TaraESPN

Now, about those games.

Seattle/Phoenix

First a knee. Now a knose. Fortunately, Bird knows about broken noses. I mean, she carries a facemask with her! Small comfort to Seattle that she’s well versed from playing behind the fiberglass, as they could have used her savvy down the homestretch of yesterday’s game. Phoenix made sure to keep their fans’ hearts beating by pretending it was going to be a blow out, then fighting back to with the game on an improbable hook shot followed by a…. defensive stand? Wait, Phoenix?

Mechelle: Phoenix rallies again to force Game 5 as Seattle suffers first back-to-back losses of season

It has been a record-breaking WNBA season full of highlight-reel plays and intense competition. So it figures that both semifinal series are headed to a deciding Game 5.

For Phoenix, that meant becoming the first team in league history to climb back from an 0-2 series start to force a Game 5.

“It’s good basketball,” Mercury center Brittney Griner said after Phoenix’s come-from-behind 86-84 victory Sunday to even its series with Seattle.

Arizona Daily Star: Griner, Mercury rally to beat Storm, force deciding Game 5

Arizona Sports: Griner, Mercury fight back from 17-point deficit, force Game 5

High Post Hoops: How Brittney Griner found another gear and kept the Mercury alive

Hobbled thanks to an opponent’s flailing leg after a clanked free throw, with an eye decorated purple from a Game 3 collision, Brittney Griner in victory closely resembled her Phoenix Mercury as she walked off the court of Sunday’s Game 4 in Phoenix: Battered but resilient.

Griner’s 29 points not only tied a playoff career high, but led the Mercury to another comeback win, this time from down as many as 17.

The first time I spoke to Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner, it was for a 2014 cover story in Curve Magazine. Her memoir, “In My Skin,” had just been released, and she was fresh off of her rookie season in the WNBA. She was laid back and relaxed – a 23-year-old kid with natural basketball talent, an ardent sense of humor, and a hell of a lot of potential.

Griner joked through most of the interview, but we also touched on some off-of-the-court topics that demanded a bit of gravity and introspection. I’ve had a soft spot for her ever since, not just because of how she was so open and honest in our discussion, but also by her humble-hearted spirit. At the time, I don’t think she realized the true talent she had or how valuable her basketball skills were.

.com: Game Recap: Mercury Come Back From 17 Down, Force Game 5

Michelle: Inside The W: Bonner’s Journey From New Mother To WNBA Semis plus DeWanna Bonner has been unstoppable force for Phoenix in playoffs

Atlanta/Washington

EDD was back, and boy was DC happy.

WaPo: Elena Delle Donne’s return powers Mystics to Game 4 victory

Though Delle Donne wasn’t Washington’s leading scorer — that honor belonged to guard Kristi Toliver, who snapped out of a cold stretch on her shot with 22 points — she finished as a game-high plus-24 during her 33 minutes 42 seconds on the floor.

She would have launched dagger stares at Thibault had she played a minute less. Recognizing the gravity of the moment, Delle Donne didn’t hold back.

“I would’ve killed Coach if he didn’t let me play full out,” the sixth-year forward said as Thibault chuckled from across the room.

ESPN: Delle Donne’s return sparks Mystics, forces Game 5

“If she’s on the floor they have to respect her and honor her and that just changes everything for everyone,” Washington guard Kristi Toliver said. “I’m happy that she was able to get going, especially in the second half, feeling good, her legs were under her. … I’m just really happy to have her back.”

Washington City Paper/Lindsay Gibbs: Elena Delle Donne And Kristi Toliver Come Up Big for the Mystics

On Feb. 2, 2017, Washington Mystics head coach and general manager Mike Thibault announced that the team had acquired 2015 WNBA MVP Elena Delle Donne in a trade with the Chicago Sky. Just five days later, he announced that 2013 All-Star and 2016 WNBA champion Kristi Toliver had signed with the Mystics in free agency.

Nineteen months later, it’s clear that was the biggest five days in Mystics franchise history.

Also: WNBA Takeaways: Washington Mystics dominate Atlanta Dream 97-76, force Game 5

Howard at FanSided: ARIEL ATKINS IS HUNGRY

Mike Thibault, Mystics head coach and general manager, began scouting Atikins during her junior year at University of Texas, and Texas assistant Tina Thompson, who knows a little something about WNBA stardom, made the Catchings connection for him.

“Tina had played with Catchings in every USA Basketball situation, and she said there’s nobody that works like Catchings until she coached Ariel,” Thibault said Friday. “She’s a guard, but I think she can be sensational. And she’ll be the first to tell you, she has so much to learn. And she is a note-taker, film-watcher, and you can’t watch enough film with her, she’ll ask for more. She’s just a sponge when it comes to learning the game.”

Atlanta Journal Constitution: WNBA semifinal returns to Atlanta after Mystics rout Dream in Game 4

Rob Knox: WNBA Playoffs: Delle Donne Returns and Spurs Washington to a 2-2 Semis Tie And Decisive Game 5 in Atlanta

Playing with savage fury and desperation, the Washington Mystics celebrated Elena Delle Donne’s return to the lineup by pulling away late to defeat the Atlanta Dream, 97-76, in Game Four of an intense WNBA semifinal series at the Charles E. Smith Center on George Washington’s campus Sunday afternoon.

.com: Postgame Notes & Quotes: Mystics Force Game 5

High Post Hoops: WNBA Playoffs: Coach of the Year Nicki Collen one win away from her first-ever WNBA Finals

In other news: Chicago Sky fires coach/GM Amber Stocks after 2 seasons Intrigued to see who they find.

Yup: Dawn Staley wants WNBA players to earn more, as long as ‘it doesn’t break the league’

Says Isaiah: If You Know, You Know

I was watching my sons, too, to see how they were feeling it. What was it like for them to be up close with some of the best female hoopers alive? Sue Bird was right in front of us, throwin’ behind-the-back passes. Sue’s a bonafide Seattle legend. Breanna Stewart, also on the Storm, was getting her shots up inside the key. I’m happy they got to see this year’s MVP up close. Diana Taurasi walked right by us — arguably the GOAT. Brittney Griner was dunking in layup lines. That made their jaws drop, I swear. Candace Parker, two-time MVP, was doing work. Maya Moore, four-time champ, was shooting that J. My boys got to slap hands with the players in the tunnel and get autographs, the whole thing.

Later on, sometime during the game, one of my sons said to me, “Dang, Dad — they are good. You weren’t lying.” I just smiled.

If you know, you know.

International

As you may have kenned, these playoffs will have an impact on USA Basketball’s prep for Tenerife. Lots of folks getting an opportunity to play-shine-strut their stuff, including:

SFGate: Sabrina Ionescu named to US women’s basketball roster

AP: Charles, Ogwumike headline US hoops training camp roster

Courant: Napheesa Collier, UConn Alums Invited To USA National Team Training Camp

We shall see: Canadian basketball’s future is now ’cause this is a problem: Nurse coming off excellent WNBA season that too few young girls got to watch

FIBA, Paul: Where will France finish in Tenerife, who will be their MVP and breakout Performer? Vote Now

Congrats: Asian Games: China break Korean hearts in women’s basketball thriller and China crowned women’s basketball champs at Asiad

College

WATN? Sydney Moss moves from award-winning women’s basketball playing career to coaching ranks

Sydney Moss’ heart was still in the sport of basketball, even if her knees weren’t. Win two national championships and three national Division III player of the year awards and it gets difficult to shake the sport all the way out of your system.

So the daughter of Pro Football Hall of Famer Randy Moss and Libby Offutt decided that, if her playing days were over, her coaching days needed to begin. And it hasn’t taken long for Moss to work her way up the coaching ladder.

Intrigued to see Committee Geeks dive into this: UK overrated? Underrated? NCAA alters its selection and seeding process

Arizona Daily Star: Five leading questions as UA enters 2018-19 sports season

Great leveraging: A’ja Wilson Is A Part Of The Kickoff To 2018

Drexel: Preview: women’s basketball set for great season

Hawkeye Sports: A Golden Opportunity

It took a few shots in the dark for University of Iowa women’s basketball seniors Hannah Stewart and >Megan Gustafson to help USA Team to a FISU America Games gold medal this summer.

Literally.

History: (Unless you’ve followed WBH and/or surveyed the WBH Timeline) The Nearly Forgotten History Of Basketball HOF Inductee Ora Washington

According to the Times, “Miss Washington” held the American Tennis Association’s singles title for 12 years — actually, it was eight. Her prowess on the basketball court wasn’t mentioned.

“They say she was an allround athlete who had speed and a smashing serve,” Charlie Mays, founder of the Black Athletes Hall of Fame told the Times. “But racial barriers were too strong to break during her day, so many of her achievements were never acknowledged.”

Mays says that based on bits and pieces of information he has received, Miss Washington is believed to be in her late 60s and was last known to be living in Philadelphia. He says he will keep Miss Washington’s awards in a glass case in his office until he can find her.

Len Lear knows where “Miss Washington” was that night.

“She could not be there, because she had died five years earlier,” Len says.

 

*all sing* Get Ready!

Get reaaaaady!

Lots on tap tonight if you’re a sports fan: USA v. Canada World Baseball Cup Bronze medal game, Japan v. Chinese Taipei Gold medal game, WNBA playoff, USWNT, Williams v. Williams…. A virtual cornucopia of excellence and intrigue.

Something to read (while you’re working, of course):

.com: (stole my line, I see…) Recapping An Amazing Start To #WNBAPlayoffs

AP: Mystics hope to have Delle Donne available vs. Dream

Mystics game is (close to) SOLD OUT.

AP: Mystics Set To Host Dream in Game 3 With Series Tied

WaPo: Elena Delle Donne getting ‘round-the-clock rehab’ for bone bruise, status for Game 3 in doubt

Albert: Analysis: How will the Mystics adjust with Elena Delle Donne not at full strength?

SB Nation: Meet the WNBA’s best-kept secret — for now. Tiffany Hayes of the underestimated Atlanta Dream isn’t a Batman or Robin. She’s just damn good.

Hayes, the eternal sidekick, has become the team’s centerpiece, but she still can’t seem to shake her Robin status. Her stats aren’t as gaudy as peers like Liz Cambage and Breanna Stewart and she’s not an endless highlight reel like Diana Taurasi or Delle Donne, though Hayes’ mean left-right cross has been known to break Skylar Diggins’ ankles.

The same trait that made the Dream such an unlikely threat also makes Hayes one of the league’s best kept secrets: balance. Now that they’re finally center stage, it’s becoming obvious to the rest of the league that she’s the perfect star for a team without stars. Instead of a signature move or otherworldly skill, Hayes’ biggest strength is not having a weakness.

Swish Appeal: Hoops Happening: Can Phoenix keep ‘The Chase’ for another title alive with a Game 3 win at home against Seattle?

Diana Taurasi didn’t get to be the Greatest of All Time (GOAT) without acquiring keen sensibilities and a heck of a lot of wisdom. When I spoke to Taurasi before the season, she had this to say about what it takes for a team to win it all:

I’ve said it a lot, where you go into a training camp and all you talk about is championships and you forget to do all the work and the next thing you know, you lose in the semifinals.

Winners and Whiners: Storm vs. Phoenix Mercury, 8-31-18 – WNBA Prediction and preview

Carl for SNY: Bird-Taurasi playoff matchup on Geno’s watch list – Storm lead Mercury 2-0 in thrilling WNBA semis

“I made a comment to a guy in an interview before the first game about what to watch for,” Auriemma said. “With those two, it’s always fascinating to watch how they will impact the game and they will do it at the most crucial moments. Sue will do something that will put Seattle in charge and then D will respond, and they’ll go back and forth, back and forth.

“That’s how it was Tuesday night and they do it in different ways.”

NCAA

Don’t do stupid stuff: Tennessee sophomore guard Anastasia Hayes has been dismissed from the team “due to a violation of team rules.”

Road trip? College basketball: Texas, Missouri, Duke highlight 2018 women’s Gulf Coast Showcase field

Upcoming

FIBA WORLD CUP!!! Some interesting perspective from Coach Reeve on the difference between the Olympics and the World Cup. Gonna make the trip out to Bridgeport to see USA v. Canada. Hoping work allows me to hop the train to see Japan v Canada on Friday.

Japan women’s basketball team steadily gathering speed on road to Tokyo Olympics

In 2017, the senior “Akatsuki Five” team completed a three-peat at the FIBA Asian Cup, while Japan also captured its first silver medal at the University Games in half a century in Taiwan. Japan made it to the semifinal round (finishing fourth) at the FIBA Under-19 Women’s World Cup as well.

But the Japan Basketball Association and its respective national teams will not rest on their laurels, and aim to achieve bigger things going forward.

Canada women’s basketball building toward major event medal

Proud to play: No-one missing as Canadian basketball women gather for camp

The Canadian Senior Women’s National Team – Road to the FIBA World Cup Part III

The Canadian Senior Women’s National Team is back in action. Today, they kicked off the start of their training camp where the invited players will have a chance to compete for a spot on the World Championship team.

The Canadian team is currently ranked 5th in the world and have a great shot to medal at the upcoming World Championships, so picking the right roster is very important.

Speaking of Canadians: Rookie Diary: The Sign Off By Kia Nurse – WNBA.com – Official Site of the WNBA

Toronto Star: Canadian basketball star Natalie Achonwa has always had a head for the game

One of Natalie Achonwa’s great basketball traits has always been her mind, her ability to think the game and know where to be and when to maximize her physical talents.

Having come off a breakthrough season with the WNBA’s Indiana Fever, the 25-year-old from Guelph thinks that now, finally, both facets of her game have meshed.

Mechelle and Kevin: What are the keys to Game 3? Storm can clinch but Dream-Mystics is all even

Atlanta at Washington: Who will step up for Mystics?

The good news for the Mystics is that the door is at least still open for Delle Donne to play in the series. But that doesn’t mean she will. Even if she does, we can’t be sure how effective she will be. No matter what, Washington is going to need someone else to have a huge game Friday.

Dream: Atlanta Travel to Washington for Game 3 of WNBA Semifinals Friday

Hero Sports, Rachel Galligan: WNBA Round 2 Keys: Phoenix Mercury vs. Seattle Storm

Listen up! In case you missed WNBAInsidr: “I’m glad to see everyone is OK and functional after Game 2. Join us here on the latest pod where Aryeh and I react, recap, predict and ramble about one of the most intense nights in the so far.”

Listen up! offers blunt talk on the playoffs, Taurasi, awards and… Elastigirl. w/

.com: Sparks’ Alana Beard Named 2018 Defensive Player Of The Year plus a little somethin’ somethin’ about it from Mechelle and the OC Register Sparks’ Alana Beard named WNBA Defensive Player of the Year again

Get a beverage and have some arguments: 2018 All-Defensive First Team

Flashback: How do you like’em now? Breaking Down the Top WNBA Venues: Which Women’s Basketball Arena is the Best?

College

Cr@p: Delaware senior forward Nicole Enabosi will miss the 2018-19 season after suffering a torn ACL. She was the 2018 Colonial Athletic Association Player of the Year after leading the league in PPG (18) and RPG (11.8).

The State: Missouri women’s basketball coach says she and Dawn Staley are ‘in a good place’

International: Three reasons women’s basketball continues to shoot itself in the foot

It’s amazing isn’t it? I have somehow managed to come up with only three reasons why women’s basketball is shooting itself in the foot.

Of course there are many more reasons and scope for improvement across the board, but in a summer which has been extraordinarily hot and therefore I have been additionally grumpy, it feels like the time lay down my three biggest frustrations with the women’s game. And, I am not holding back. (Photo – FIBA)

CAN’T SHOOT, WON’T SHOOT

Over the years, it feels like I am having to say through my own teeth that the attractiveness of women’s basketball is the team-ethic, the passing and the shooting. Well, I don’t think I am going to be able to rave about the shooting anymore, since in recent years the perimeter shooting in particular has become an absolute joke.

Real life

Ramona Shelburne: Why we should be living pregnancy and motherhood out loud

There’s this scene at the end of the second episode of “Being Serena,” the five-part HBO series documenting Serena Williams’ life as she becomes a mother, that I just can’t shake. She’s back on the tennis court for the first time since giving birth, hitting groundstrokes with her training partner, Jarmere Jenkins, to “see if I still got it” or if “I need to find another career.”

Her doctors have cleared her for some light running and hitting, but nothing too intense on her legs and midsection, which is still healing after an emergency C-section and several surgeries to deal with post-operative blood clots and a hematoma that nearly killed her. But Serena can feel her competitiveness start to come back almost immediately. She reminds herself to be patient — or at least, she tries to.

“Was it bad?” she asks Jenkins after the workout.

“Just now?” he responds, trying to read her obviously trying-not-to-be-disappointed face. “No, no. I don’t know how much more you can ask for. Just keeping the ball on the court for now.”

Serena doesn’t answer. She knows he’s right. This was always going to be a long road back.

Laura M. Purtell and Anna Katherine Clemmons: Athlete-Mom Confidential: How the pros manage motherhood

Becoming a parent is a monumental step for anyone. But for women athletes, the decision can be substantially more complex. We wanted to hear from the women who became mothers during their careers, so we surveyed 37 athletes anonymously who reached or returned to professional competition after having children. We spoke to mothers across different sports, races, ages and sexual orientations — asking them questions that are unique to motherhood, but also those that could apply to any parent. (For more on our methodology and presentation, scroll down or click here.) Here’s what they had to say:

“Bruised knee”????

Hell to the YES!!!” *did a little happy dance through the office.

(And to those who wished EDD ill – shame on your little small self. You’re an embarrassment to your name.)

’cause anyone who’s watched any kind of women’s basketball knows exactly where our mind went.

So, let’s say it again: “Knee bruise.” HELL to the YES!!!!

Now that that’s out of the way.

WomensHoopsWorld.com: Dream edge Mystics, 78-75, to steal game 2, as Delle Donne injured and Different game, same score: Seattle needs overtime to take 2-0 series lead

*all sing* Regrets, I have a few: I regret not watching Diana Taurasi on Tuesday night

In middle school, I used to watch the 2003 Final Four game between UConn and Texas almost every morning. UConn trailed by nine with 12 minutes left in the second half — a game no one expected them to be in after the graduation of superstars Sue Bird, Swin Cash, Tamika Williams and Asjha Jones — who all were selected in the first round of the 2002 WNBA draft. Taurasi was 1-6 in the second half before UConn started to claw back. 

And with 2:07 left on the clock, Taurasi came around a double screen to hit a 3-pointer. Connecticut advanced and won their second of three consecutive championships.

So, of all people, I should have known better about going to bed early.

Shea: Even in Defeat, Diana Taurasi Is Magic

DeWanna Bonner, inbounding the ball from the right sideline on the Mercury’s side of the court, lobbed it up to Brittney Griner, who had floated over toward the opposite corner. Griner plucked it out of the air, and before her feet even touched the ground she was already looking for Taurasi. Because she knew what everyone else on the court knew. And what everyone in the stands knew. And what everyone watching the game on TV knew. And what all of the birds and the bugs and the animals and the slugs and the plants and the dirt and the sun and the universe and the amoebas knew: that Taurasi was taking that shot.

Jemelle: Breanna Stewart, MVP and athlete activist

She turned 24 on Monday, and while she’s still barely scratching the surface of her potential, it’s delightful to watch Stewart evolve so quickly as both a player and a person.

She’s found her voice and, perhaps, her calling to speak for those who are most vulnerable in our society. Besides being outspoken about sexual abuse, Stewart also participated in a massive protest at the Los Angeles International Airport last year. The protest was against the president’s travel ban, which many felt unfairly targeted Muslim countries.

So I had to ask her: How does it feel to be described as woke?

Stewart chuckled, at first.

“I think it’s fitting,” she said. “It’s just being aware of things.”

Sometimes, the personal evolution of a great player doesn’t take place until later in their career — if at all.

Listen up: WNBAInsdr: Aryeh Schwartz & Rachel Galligan chat game 2 of the Semi-Finals on an episode coming to your ears tonight

Listen up: High Post Hoops: Podcast: WNBA semifinals check-ins with Lindsay Gibbs and Alex Simon

ALSO

House money: Reaction to Las Vegas Aces winning the #1 overall pick in 2019

So, now that weak dudes are making sh*t up about players and such, does that mean we’ve hit the big time? WNBA players have become targets of fake pay disparity quotes on social media. Here’s what they’re actually arguing for. (Also, PSA: They’re not protesting the anthem)

Do NOT want to check news feeds obsessively for an update on Delle Donne. Do. Not. Want.

DO want to enjoy the fact that we were gifted two more amazing games, one OT and a total point differential of …7.

Quick hits

ESPN: Mystics lose Elena Delle Donne, Game 2 as Dream even series

AJC: Dream hold on for 78-75 win over Mystics in Game 2

Washington Post: Mystics lose Elena Delle Donne to knee injury, fall in Game 2 of WNBA

ESPN: After blowing another double-digit lead, Storm regroup to hold off Taurasi, Mercury

Breanna Stewart, Seattle Storm Barely Escape Diana Taurasi, Mercury’s Rally Bid…

(Among other things) WNBA Sneaker Culture Deserves More Respect

Tick Tock Till Tip Off…

Till then… Mechelle: At the free throw line, Elena Delle Donne is as dependable as it gets

Right foot toeing the free throw line, standing at a slight angle to the basket. Three dribbles. Right arm lifted to a 90-degree position. Line up the shot. Pause. Flick of the wrist with a lift of the ankles.

That’s the routine of one of the best free throw shooters in basketball history. And the Washington Mystics’ Elena Delle Donne has done the exact same thing since eighth grade.

“For me, it’s about making the shot as simple as possible, taking away anything that could go wrong,” Delle Donne said. “Simplicity is what gives me confidence.”

For Diana Taurasi, one night sticks out in a rivalry with Sue Bird that has spanned more than half their lives and defined a generation of guard play in women’s basketball.

It is the night she beat Bird in bowling.

“It was one of those dark, cold nights in Russia,” Taurasi said in a phone interview, before the two former Connecticut and current U.S.A. Basketball teammates faced off in Game 1 of their W.N.B.A. semifinal series on Sunday. “I remember it was at this bowling place where we used go to in Moscow. Not much else to do, and bowling always got a little competitive. She’s a good bowler. I’m not a great bowler, but I did have the best score ever in Russia, that’s all I can say. That’s all I remember.”

Bird, needless to say, remembers it differently.

“Don’t let her fool you,” Bird said. “It’s me. I beat her pretty much every time.”

Listen up:  podcast episode: We recap the Sunday afternoon games and preview Tuesday night’s games. Game 2 of Mystics-Dream and Mercury-Storm semifinals series tonight on ESPN2

SB Nation: Why Sue Bird stayed in Seattle instead of chasing a WNBA superteam

At this critical point, she had to decide what to do with the end of her career: Ring-chase, or ride it out with the Storm, who were dreadful enough to earn consecutive No. 1 picks in the 2015 and 2016 drafts. (The Storm finished 31 games under .500 in a four-year stretch after Lauren Jackson’s retirement.)

The answer wasn’t clear. Unlike the NBA, the WNBA does not allow a player’s current team to offer a longer and more lucrative contract than its opposition. While Seattle remained on the table, other situations were appealing.

Oooops! Scheduling: Tonight Sparks’ own will be on the debut of ’ “The Shop” on at 8PM PT.

Chicago Sun Times: Owner Michael Alter has big expectations for 2019 Sky

“I didn’t expect we’d be in the championship, but I thought we’d be a [playoff] team and sort of on the climb-up,” Alter said. “We’re a little behind where I hoped we’d be, based on that. Last year was kind of what I expected with all the new parts. This year, I don’t feel like we moved forward from last year as much as I would’ve hoped.

“But, overall, I love what we have from that trade and the draft.”

In other news

Buckle up: USC women’s basketball unveils schedule; Gamecocks could face every champ since 1995

Ooops! Cummings Dismissed from Toledo Women’s Basketball Team