Meesseman Ties Career High, Mystics Beat Aces, Take 2-0 Lead
WASHINGTON (AP) — So far this postseason, Emma Meesseman is outshining everyone. Even the newly minted league MVP.
Meesseman tied a career high with 30 points in her second consecutive exceptional performance, and the Washington Mystics beat the Las Vegas Aces 103-91 on Thursday night to take a 2-0 lead in their WNBA semifinal series.
"It's easier to take my shot when it goes in," said Meesseman, who hit 5 of 7 attempts from 3-point range. "I know that when you kind of have the hot hand, just keep shooting. That's what I did."
Natasha Cloud added 18 points and 11 assists for Washington, while Elena Delle Donne scored 14 points and grabbed 10 rebounds on the day she received her second MVP award.
"In some ways, this kind of epitomized it," Mystics coach Mike Thibault said of Delle Donne's honor. "Because she didn't have a good shooting game, and yet, people are running to double-team her and she's finding somebody else."
The Mystics can wrap up the best-of-five series and seal a return to the WNBA Finals on Sunday in Las Vegas.
Liz Cambage had 23 points and 10 rebounds for the Aces, who have lost four of five meetings against the Mystics this year between the regular season and playoffs.
Kelsey Plum added 19 points and 10 assists for Las Vegas, which fought back from an 11-point second-quarter deficit to take a brief lead in the third, only to fade late.
"They capitalize on everything that you do, mistakes that you make," Plum said. "Coach (Bill Laimbeer) always says, 'If you relax for a second, before you know it you're going to be down 10.'"
The Mystics were swept by Seattle in the 2018 finals. Meesseman didn't play at all that season, taking a summer hiatus to focus on playing for the Belgian national team after helping Washington to the 2017 conference finals.
In her second time reaching this stage of the postseason, she scored what was a playoff career high of 27 points in the opener before surpassing that Thursday, when her late 3-pointer stretched the Mystics' lead to double digits for good at 98-86.
"I'm proud of Emma, because if you would've looked at Emma two years ago in the Minnesota (conference final) series, we were yelling at her to shoot the ball, yelling at her to be aggressive," Cloud said. "Emma is the missing piece for us. From last year to this year's team, she's the difference-maker."
Washington took control with a 10-0 run in the third quarter.
Meesseman hit a 3-pointer on Cloud's kickout, then fed LaToya Sanders for a layup that resulted in a three-point play. Cloud then found Kristi Toliver for another 3, before Delle Donne hit a free throw to make it 75-64. The Aces got no closer than eight afterward.
"Washington did what they were supposed to do, win their home games," Laimbeer said. "Now it's our turn."
Aces: Committed six first-quarter turnovers for a second consecutive game. ... Plum started Game 2 after scoring 16 points and playing 31 minutes off the bench in Game 1. ... Cambage picked up a technical foul with 8:06 to play.
Mystics: With five turnovers by halftime, exceeded their total from Game 1. ... Started the same five (Delle Donne, Meesseman, Cloud, Sanders, Ariel Atkins) for a sixth consecutive game. ... Delle Donne's third-quarter miss from the foul line was her first since she made 4 of 5 from the line on Aug. 8. She sank 114 of her 117 free throws (97.4 during the regular season.
Delle Donne accepted her MVP trophy from league commissioner Cathy Engelbert at halfcourt prior to tip-off.
During the 2019 season, Delle Donne became the first player in WNBA history to shoot over 50% from the field, over 40% from 3-point territory and over 90% from the free throw line.
Washington Wizards guards John Wall and Bradley Beal and Washington Capitals right winger Tom Wilson were honorary co-captains for the Mystics. Beal wore a No. 20 Toliver jersey. The three teams share an owner, Ted Leonsis.
The best-of-five series shifts to Las Vegas Sunday for Game 3.