Elena Delle Donne came back for the Mystics on Sunday and put in a gutsy performance to help Washington force a winner-take-all Game 5 against the Atlanta Dream.
WASHINGTON — Elena Delle Donne recorded 15 points and 10 rebounds in her return from a bone bruise in her left knee and the Washington Mystics forced a decisive Game 5 with a 97-76 win over the Atlanta Dream in the WNBA semifinal series.
Delle Donne started, played 34 minutes, sank 3 of 5 three-point attempts and scored 11 points in the second half after sitting out Friday's 81-76 loss. She suffered the injury in the final minutes of Atlanta's 78-75 Game 2 victory.
The 2015 WNBA Most Valuable Player award winner sported a bulky brace on her left knee. She failed to score until less than four minutes remained in the first half, but her presence immediately helped open the floor up for teammates.
Washington shot 50% from the field overall. Ariel Atkins scored 19 points, Natasha Cloud had 13 and LaToya Sanders recorded 10.
Kristi Toliver led the Mystics with 22 points as all five starters scored in double figures. Washington pulled away with a 28-10 run in the second half for its largest lead at 90-67 after Atlanta closed within five points.
The series shifts back to Atlanta for the finale of the best-of-5 series on Tuesday. The Mystics have never reached the WNBA finals in the franchise's 21 seasons.
Tiffany Hayes and Renee Montgomery each scored 12 points for the Dream.
Atlanta remains one victory away from the franchise's fourth finals appearance and first since 2013. Brittney Sykes and Jessica Breland also scored 12 points.
The Mystics raced out to a 26-12 lead in the second quarter and entered halftime up 44-35. Toliver, who had only seven points on 3 of 15 shooting in Game 3 topped all scorers with 12 points in the first half.
Delle Donne's second of three 3-pointers stifled Atlanta's momentum after the Dream's 10-0 run cut Washington's lead to 62-57 with 2:04 left in the third.
Toliver and Cloud, Washington's starting backcourt, combined to make 13 of 26 shots after finishing 4 of 22 in Game 3. ... The Mystics outrebounded the Dream 40-31. Atlanta shot 14 of 25 on free throws. ... Washington turned Atlanta's nine first-half turnovers into 12 points while the Dream scored one point off the Mystics' eight miscues.
The teams split the first two games in Atlanta, though Washington held a double-digit lead in Game 2 before losing. Delle Donne averaged 29.5 points and 13.5 rebounds in Atlanta.