Elena Delle Donne scored 22 points and Ariel Atkins had 21 to help the Washington Mystics beat the Connecticut Sun 95-86 on Sunday in Game 1 of the WNBA Finals.
Kristi Toliver added 18 points for the Mystics, who had the best record in the regular season. It's the first finals win in franchise history for the Mystics, who were swept last year by Seattle in their only other appearance in the championship round. Game 2 of the best-of-five series is Tuesday night in Washington.
The Mystics were up nine at the half and extended the lead to 17 in the third quarter before Connecticut rallied within four twice in the final period. Delle Donne — the league's MVP — answered each time for Washington with a basket. Her jumper with 4:56 left made it 82-76 and started a 9-0 run to put the game out of reach. Atkins followed with a 3-pointer that made it a nine-point game and then corralled an offensive rebound that Toliver finished off with a finger roll down the lane with 3:16 left.
The Sun could only get within eight the rest of the way.
Courtney Williams scored 26 points and Alyssa Thomas added 20 to lead Connecticut, playing the finals for the first time since 2005.
After a tight first 6 minutes Mike Thibault inserted Emma Meesseman into the lineup playing all three of Washington's bigs together. It was a lineup that Connecticut didn't see during the three regular season meetings. Delle Donne missed the first game because of knee pain. Meesseman missed the other two games because she was with the Belgium national team
The pair along with Latoya Sanders helped Washington go on a 12-0 run to close the quarter and give the Mystics a 30-17 lead.
The Mystics were up 55-46 at the half.
TIP-INS: The Mystics hit their first 13 free throws before Meesseman missed one in the third quarter. The team, which shot 87.5% from the line during the regular season, finished 17 for 21.
Maryland was well represented in the finals with five of coach Brenda Frese's former players seeing court time in Game 1. Washington had Shatori Walker-Kimbrough ('17), Tianna Hawkins ('13) and Toliver ('09) while the Sun had Brionna Jones ('17) and Thomas ('14).
Only Toliver won a championship in college and she's also the only one to win a WNBA title, doing so with Los Angeles in 2016.
Frese was in attendance.