LAS VEGAS (AP) – It took two arenas, four weeks, four referees and one earthquake before the Washington Mystics finally could take down the Las Vegas Aces.
Elena Delle Donne and the Mystics made their short trip to Las Vegas pay off Monday night, completing the second half of a game suspended by an earthquake with a 99-70 win over the Aces.
The original game was suspended with Washington leading 51-36 after a magnitude 7.1 earthquake hit Southern California just before halftime, with the effects felt as far away as Las Vegas and Mexico. After talking it over, WNBA officials suspended the game out of an abundance of caution. NBA Summer League games in Las Vegas also were postponed that night.
“This was really hard to prepare for, it was definitely odd.” said Mystics guard Natasha Cloud, who had nine points and nine assists. “I think you saw the opening minute we were both just missing shots, but you gotta deal with the cards that are dealt your way.”
The Mystics played in Phoenix on Sunday and got blown out by the Mercury 103-82. Washington flew to Las Vegas on Sunday night and treated Monday night’s game like any other game on their schedule. The Aces had their morning shootaround, and both teams got their normal warmup 90 minutes before the game.
Delle Donne scored 21 points for the Mystics (15-7), who maintained a double-digit lead throughout the second half. Kelsey Plum had 17 for the Aces (15-8).
“We understood what this game meant given their position and our position in the fight to finish top two in the league,” said Mystics guard Kristi Toliver, who finished with 14 points and eight assists. “It was weird, you can’t deny that. We wanted to put together a 20-minute game. We knew we had to come out and compete at a high level very early, which is in a good rhythm of what we do. We didn’t want to play tentative, didn’t want to play not to lose. We wanted to play to win the game.”
It was a win like none other in WNBA history for the Mystics. The game started again with a second rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” even though it was technically halftime when things were getting started. Starting lineups got introduced again, too, though the Aces were different since Liz Cambage was out for rest and A’ja Wilson was missing from the Vegas lineup with an ankle injury. She was still an official player in the game as she had nine points and five rebounds in the first half. Cambage officially finished with 12 points from the first half of the game.
The 5,024 fans in attendance didn’t care, though, as those who received replacement tickets and the rest who purchased $10 general admission tickets were stretched across four sections behind the team benches. The rest of the arena – including every section facing the benches – were completely empty – though Raiders owner Mark Davis was in his customary spot for Aces games, sitting midcourt.
The Mystics had the services of forward Emma Meesseman, who was playing for Belgium in preparation for the EuroBasket Tournament when the original game tipped off on July 5. And two of the three referees from the original game, Eric Brewton and Fatou Cissoko-Stephens, were back for the second half. The third from the original contest, Tiara Cruise, was replaced Monday by Cheryl Flores.
And all this was happening in the T-Mobile Arena, not the Aces’ usual home at the Mandalay Bay Events Center – which was unavailable for the resumption Monday.
“This is a beautiful arena, and the Aces took care of making sure that everything felt like we were playing at Mandalay Bay, so that’s a testament to them and their organization,” Cloud said. “Feeling the crowd with one side was really hard when you’re talking about a really big arena and only one side being filled – it’s very odd.”
Max Bizzaro, executive director or production at T-Mobile Arena, said the timing couldn’t have been any more perfect since there hadn’t been an event in the building in more than a week and his team was set to prepare for USA Basketball’s Blue-White scrimmage on Friday.
“When we found out we were going to do the Aces here we were all excited,” Bizzaro said. “The good thing is with Mandalay Bay being our sister property we know a lot of people in each venue. We’re not made to transfer basketball courts back and forth but we rented some trucks, got the teams together, got it over here (and) had the court down a couple of days ago.”
July 5 was the first time a WNBA game was suspended mid-game. The NBA’s G League had a game suspended this past season when a leak in the roof in Erie, Pennsylvania, stopped play early in the fourth quarter of the BayHawks’ game against the Long Island Nets. The teams finished that before a regularly scheduled game between the teams at Nassau Coliseum a month later.
But this wasn’t the first time a Mystics-Aces matchup went awry: Las Vegas ultimately forfeited a game in Washington last year, after the team decided to not play citing health and safety concerns following a 26-hour trip to the game caused in large part by flight delays and cancellations.
Cloud said after taking a red-eye flight back and arriving about 6 a.m. in Washington D.C., and finally getting home at what she thinks will be about 7:30 a.m., she’ll take a two-hour nap so she can stay on eastern time and begin preparing for Thursday night’s home game against the Indiana Fever.
“Our bodies are tired,” Cloud said. “You’re taking three planes in three days and playing a back-to-back where we get in at 11 o’clock last night and the recovery time is short but you only have to play 20 minutes. That’s the reality of the WNBA and our travel.”