Mystics, Mercury must find way to move on after injuries


NEW YORK -- This is just part of sports: A moment or two potentially can change the course of a team's season, and that's what the Washington Mystics and Phoenix Mercury are facing right now.
Both teams lost key players to injury in games Friday: Phoenix's Brittney Griner (knee, ankle) and Washington's Elena Delle Donne (ankle) and Tayler Hill (knee). Now those teams have to figure out how to contend without their stars. In Hill's case, that means for the rest of the season, as she's out with a torn ACL.
With the WNBA All-Star Game on Saturday in Seattle, everyone has fingers crossed that we've seen the worst of a difficult stretch of injuries this past week in the WNBA; among them, Indiana's Shenise Johnson is also lost for the season with an ACL tear.
Injuries put a damper on what was projected to be a marquee game Sunday at Madison Square Garden between the New York Liberty and the Mystics. Without leading scorers Delle Donne and Hill, the Mystics understandably appeared to be a shell of themselves. And the Liberty, after a disappointing loss to the Chicago Sky at home Friday, were ready to pounce.
The result: An 85-55 Liberty victory that New York really needed and Washington had to accept as practically inevitable. You don't lose a combined 32 points a game and recover from that just two days later.
For Hill, it was the worst news, as she won't return in 2017. For Delle Donne, it's an ankle sprain that will be re-evaluated on Monday. But let's be realistic: The leading vote-getter among Eastern Conference players isn't likely to make the trip to the All-Star Game now. A long flight to Seattle just to be present for an exhibition likely doesn't make sense, especially with Hill (13.3 PPG) out and even more weight on Delle Donne (18.7 PPG) to lead the Mystics.
Delle Donne missed the All-Star Game as a rookie in 2013 because of a concussion and in 2014 due to a flare-up of Lyme disease. She played in the 2015 All-Star Game; there was no game last year because of the Olympics.
"It's like my curse or something -- whenever All-Star comes around, I've got to get in a bubble," Delle Donne said. "It's frustrating. I don't know if the floor was sticky or what, but it was kind of like [my foot] caught and went on its own. I didn't step on anyone's foot or anything. It happens, and you've just got to push through and get better."