If you missed Dearica Hamby’s halfcourt heave to (eventually) win the game two weeks ago, you really missed out. It had all the makings of everyone’s favorite March Madness buzzer-beating moments, and some are even calling it the greatest shot in WNBA history. I saw it live, and as a bandwagon Aces fan, I still haven’t recovered from the excitement (though losing in the WNBA Semifinals stings now).
Thanks to NBA 2K20, we can all try to create our own big WNBA moments, and what bigger stage is there than the WNBA Finals? I simulated this year’s matchup to create the biggest moment of them all and see who would be crowned the WNBA champion.
Who Made It This Far
The Connecticut Sun and Washington Mystics will tipoff in Game 1 on September 29. Every year, there’s a group of NBA fans who want to put the best 16 teams in the playoffs, regardless of their conference. Well, the WNBA does that. The best eight teams make the playoffs, no matter what conference they’re in, and that’s how we ended up with an all-east matchup.
Front and center for the Mystics is WNBA MVP, Elena Delle Donne. She finished second in the league in scoring but became the first woman (and only one of nine people) to join the professional 50-40-90 club. It’s been debated as possibly the greatest offensive season in league history. Emma Meesseman was the team’s second-leading scorer in the regular season, and came up huge in the semifinals with 30 and 27 points in Games 1 and 2, respectively. Meesseman also had a 50-40-90 season but didn’t have enough attempts to officially qualify for it. Kristi Toliver, Aerial Powers and Ariel Atkins offer scoring options on the wing.
For Connecticut, Jonquel Jones led the league in blocks and rebounds while leading her team in points. Guard Courtney Williams is a sniper from outside, making 46 percent of her threes on the year, and it should only be a matter of time before her dad/superfan is dancing on the sidelines, not just in real life, but in the game, too. Jasmine Thomas runs the point and adds some scoring here and there, while Alyssa Thomas offers another scoring and rebounding option in the paint.
Connecticut won the season series 2-1, but in one of their wins, Delle Donne didn’t play. In their last matchup, the Mystics won by a whopping 43 points.
How The Teams Compare
Of the big five statistical categories, Washington ranked in the top two in the regular season in all but two: steals and rebounds. Do you know who does rank in the top two in steals and rebounds? The Connecticut Sun. Both teams ranked in the top three in three-point percentage, but the Mystics made 62 (sixty-two!) more three-pointers than any other team in the league.
Can Washington pass and shoot the lights out of the gym, or will the old phrase “rebounds win championships” win out? (I’m now being told this is not a phrase.)
Let’s get to the games.
The opening game of the series was back and forth the whole way. After a first-quarter tie and a one-point lead at halftime, Washington pulled away in the third quarter, taking an eight-point advantage into the final quarter. Down nine with four minutes to go, Connecticut went on a 12-5 run to cut the lead to two. The Sun’s Jonquel Jones missed a contested layup to tie the game at 73 in the final minute, and the Mystics pulled away and won the game 80-73. Elena Delle Donne finished with 22 points and 11 rebounds, while Kristi Toliver added 13 points, 5 rebounds and 8 assists. Jones led the Sun with 31 points and 14 rebounds. Jasmine Thomas had a rough shooting night but added 10 assists.
In the second game of the series, Washington scored the first basket and that was their last lead of the game. Delle Donne finished with 14 and 10, but the Mystics’ top three scorers shot a combined 12-35 from the field. Connecticut, on the other hand, was hot out of the gate. Their advantage swelled with each quarter, from 1 to 4, to 12, and finally, an 18-point win. Jonquel Jones starred again with 28 and 16, and the team shot 13-27 from three in the 85-67 victory. The series would head to Connecticut tied 1-1.
As the series moved to Connecticut, the Sun continued their terrific shooting. Jonquel Jones had her usual double-double with 15 points and 16 rebounds, but Courtney Williams put on a shooting clinic. The guard finished with 25 points, going 5-5 from three and only missing three shots. But Elena Delle Donne wasn’t about to make the game easy for the home team. Down 80-71 early in the fourth quarter, the league MVP scored 11 straight points as the Mystics clawed their way back into the game. A late turnover by Jasmine Thomas gave Washington the ball with 9.8 seconds to go in a tie game. Kristi Toliver found Delle Donne at the free-throw line and Elena banked in a shot with under two seconds left. Jonquel Jones missed a three-point attempt at the buzzer and the Mystics squeaked out a victory and took a 2-1 series lead into Game 4.
Game 4 was neck and neck through the first quarter. The Sun surged in front by seven at the half, but Washington fought back to tie the game at the end of the third quarter. Down five with four minutes left, the Mystics went on a 14-2 run and never looked back. Kristi Toliver had a game-high 28 points and iced the game with a three with 45 seconds left. Delle Donne finished with 21 and 12 and took home Finals MVP honors. The key for Washington was shutting down Connecticut star Jonquel Jones. She was kept in check with just 10 points and 6 rebounds. A couple of late threes made the game closer than it seemed in the final minutes, and the Mystics took home their first title with a 92-87 victory.
The WNBA Finals tipoff on Sunday at 3 p.m. EST. You can catch all the action on the ESPN family of networks over the next two weeks. If you’re new to the WNBA, or if you go back to the days of Cynthia Cooper and Sheryl Swoopes, the new mode in NBA 2K20 is a lot of fun, and with the number of stars in the league, it offers tons of replay value. Now, if only we could use these teams online…