But for the Mystics players, their 98-82 loss didn’t elicit tears, only quiet pride for how much the team had grown. A sold-out crowd of 9,164 fans at George Mason’s EagleBank Arena had given Mystics player Elena Delle Donne a standing ovation after the game.
“Not going to lie — it was a little quiet when we came out for our first game. And now look at it,” Delle Donne said.
Coach and General Manager Mike Thibault said, “They know that what they did this year was special.”
Washington, which added Delle Donne and Kristi Toliver at the beginning of last season in a roster rebuild, was picked to finish eighth in the league at the beginning of the season. The Mystics were without key player Emma Meesseman, who took the 2018 season off to avoid burnout, and leaned on a rookie to be their third go-to scorer for the back half of the year.
Making it to the Finals exceeded even their own expectations. As Thibault put it, his team was about a year ahead of schedule.
“They should be excited about the future. . . . I’m just so excited for where they got. I’m sorry for our fans that they didn’t get to witness one more Finals game here, but for those fans who have waited 20-something years, they should be excited about what they have going forward for this team,” Thibault said. “These players have bought in. They’re trying to do the right thing, and we’ve come a long way.”
The Mystics made a late run in a game that looked to be decided by halftime, cutting an 18-point third-quarter deficit to five in the final period, but ultimately couldn’t stay with the Storm.
In the face of Seattle’s forceful offensive lineup — the Storm shot 50 percent from the field and 50 percent from beyond the three-point arc — Washington admitted it simply didn’t play well enough Wednesday. Thibault acknowledged his team needs to take another step.
“One of the things that Seattle has better than everybody else in the league right now is they can always have a lineup on the floor with five scorers that put the fear of God in you,” he said. “We have to get to that point, too.”