Elena Delle Donne said she doesn’t feel any extra motivation when she faces off against the Sky.
Not even during a Mystics’ 81-74 victory versus her former team on Wednesday at Wintrust Arena in which she recorded 22 points and seven rebounds on 60% shooting and hit the game-clinching shot to put Washington up seven with 14 seconds left.
The 2015 WNBA MVP — who played for the Sky from 2013-16 — said all her and her teammates were focused on was getting the fourth win of their road trip.
“This has been a really, really hard road trip for us,” Delle Donne said. “We wanted to end it the right way and finish with four wins, so that was the focus.
“I don’t really think about it when I’m out there. It’s just about playing another team and getting a win.”
Her mindset shouldn’t be surprising. It’s been over two years since Delle Donne was traded to the Mystics in exchange for Stefanie Dolson, Kahleah Copper and the second overall pick in the 2017 WNBA Draft (which the Sky used on Alaina Coates, who was traded to the Lynx in exchange for a 2020 third-round draft pick on May 21).
Heading into Wednesday’s contest, Delle Donne averaged 22.1 points and 7.1 rebounds against her former team in seven games.
The Mystics have had the Sky’s number since Delle Donne joined the team, winning all seven of those match-ups by an average of 20.8 points.
“Just defending — being able to get out in transition and play our offense,” Delle Donne said about what’s helped the Mystics stay undefeated against the Sky the past three seasons. “We know we’re a team that can score the ball. But when we’re getting stops, we’re really tough to beat.”
After Wednesday’s loss, the Sky (6-4) are a game-and-a-half behind the Mystics for second place in the Eastern Conference.
Delle Donne feels an intensity difference from the team under coach James Wade.
“They’re playing differently,” Delle Donne said. “They’re really tough offensively. He has them running a lot of great sets with shooters everywhere and they’re spacing well. They’re running the floor really well, so I think he’s done a great job so far.”
Cheyenne Parker said regardless of when the Sky get their first win against her former teammate, there will always be a special approach when facing off against Delle Donne.
Whether that’s on Aug. 23 at Wintrust, on Sept. 8 in Washington DC for the regular season finale or in a potential playoff match-up.
“Definitely, just the fact that it is a former player,” Parker said. “You just gotta make sure you give it to her good and play harder than average.”