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Ariel Atkins, Natasha Cloud help Mystics rout Lynx

Sportsnaut
Sep 7, 2018; Seattle, WA, USA; The WNBA logo on a ball during the fourth quarter of game one of the WNBA finals between the Seattle Storm and the Washington Mystics at KeyArena. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

No Elena Delle Donne? No problem for the Washington Mystics.

Without their star, who was held out of Sunday’s game in Minneapolis due to load management, the Mystics led nearly wire-to-wire in their rout of the Minnesota Lynx, winning 78-66.

Ariel Atkins led Washington with a game-high 20 points, four rebounds and five assists. Jessica Shepard led the Lynx with a career-high 16 points, along with 12 rebounds and four assists.

Without Delle Donne, Atkins and Natasha Cloud took on much of the scoring load for the Mystics. Cloud began the game shooting 6 of 9 from the floor, accounting for 17 of Washington’s first 29 points. She finished the game with 19 points, six rebounds and six assists in the Mystics’ second straight win.

The Lynx briefly held a 6-4 lead after Angel McCoughtry — making her debut with the Lynx — knocked down a pair of free throws.

Then Cloud went to work, converting an and-1 play at the rim, then knocking down a 24-foot jumper for three more points, boosting the Mystics’ lead to 12-6. Minnesota never regained the lead after that. Every time the Lynx threatened, Cloud and the Mystics responded.

Washington put a sizable gap between itself and Minnesota in the second quarter, as the Mystics outscored the Lynx 23-4. Atkins had six points, two rebounds and three assists in the second period, powering the Mystics on that lopsided run.

The Mystics led by as many as 27 points.

Washington was also playing without Alysha Clark (foot) and Tianna Hawkins (personal reasons).

In the absence of Delle Donne, No. 3 overall pick Shakira Austin made her first professional start. The Ole Miss product went head-to-head with two-time Finals MVP Sylvia Fowles and finished with 13 points and 10 boards, her first double-double as a pro. Fowles tallied 13 points and eight boards.

The Lynx started the fourth quarter on a 21-6 run, but the deficit they dug themselves in the first half was too deep to escape.

–Field Level Media