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Delle Donne to return from thumb injury against Liberty


NEW YORK (AP) Elena Delle Donne is back, although she's not at 100 percent yet.

Washington's star forward will return to the Mystics lineup Friday night when they visit the New York Liberty. She has been sidelined since the beginning of August with a torn ligament in her left thumb. The Mystics' leading scorer missed six games and Washington went 3-3.

''It's only three weeks post-op, so obviously I don't know if it will be 100 percent this season,'' she told The Associated Press after a shoot-around on Friday. ''It's my left hand, so they've been able to use different tape jobs and a little bit of casting. I'll just give it a roll. I'm excited to be back.''

She had surgery on her non-shooting hand days after the injury occurred against Atlanta on July 30.

''I was able to do tons of cardio,'' she said. ''Do stuff with my right hand. Nothing's like playing. It's good to get back and get into game shape and get into the flow of things.''

Delle Donne, who is averaging 18.8 points, also missed time with a sprained ankle in July. She had surgery on her right thumb last year when she was playing with Chicago.

''Last year I wasn't able to get back. It's not my shooting hand, so it makes a big difference,'' Delle Donne said. ''It's the same exact injury. This one tore right down the middle, tore right off the bone. Same surgery, same rehab, definitely a painful thing to get through. Glad to get on the court and get some games under my belt before playoffs.''

The Mystics (17-12) are a half-game behind New York for the fourth seed in the WNBA playoffs. The teams have split the two meetings this season and the winner of Friday's game will have the tiebreaker.

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''This is the first time we've played them all year with both Elena and Emma (Meesseman) on the court at the same time,'' Washington coach Mike Thibault said.

The Mystics haven't played since last Sunday, so Delle Donne has had a week of practice to get ready.

''Her wind is pretty good, she's been able to run and do all that stuff, she's done live contact all week,'' Thibault added. ''It's sore but not damaged.''

Earning the fourth seed will give that team a bye into the second round of the playoffs.

''We've got one (heck) of a schedule ahead of us. It's a good thing,'' Delle Donne said. ''It will prepare us for the grind of the playoffs. We don't have any freebie games coming up, so it will help get us ready for the playoffs.''

The Mystics have already clinched a playoff berth.

''Obviously it's not do or die. We're in, so that's exciting we get to live another day after the regular season,'' Delle Donne said. ''It's very important to finish this the right way.''


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