The Washington Mystics are a professional basketball team based in Washington, D.C., playing in the Eastern Conference in the Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA). The team was founded prior to the 1998 season and is owned by Monumental Sports & Entertainment (led by Ted Leonsis), which also owns the Mystics' NBA counterpart, the Washington Wizards. The Mystics have qualified for the WNBA Playoffs in 10 of its 20 seasons of existence, and the franchise has been home to high-quality players such as 2015 WNBA MVP Elena Delle Donne, Tennessee standout Chamique Holdsclaw, athletic shooting guard Alana Beard, and nearby Maryland product Crystal Langhorne. Until 2018, the Mystics were the only current WNBA franchise that had never made it to the WNBA Finals. They lost in the semifinals twice, to New York in 2002 and to the eventual champion Minnesota Lynx in 2017.
During the 2016–17 off-season, the Mystics were busy in the trade market. With enough trade assets, they were determined to make a trade for a superstar player. First, on January 30, the team executed a three-way deal with the New York Liberty and Seattle Storm, sending Bria Hartley and Kia Vaughn to the Liberty and receiving the Storm's #6 pick in the 2017 draft. This proved the prelude to an even larger deal as it freed up cap space to land a superstar on their team. Officially announced on February 2, the Mystics traded Kahleah Copper, Stefanie Dolson and the second overall pick in the 2017 WNBA draft to the Chicago Sky in exchange for 2015 league MVP Elena Delle Donne. Also during the off-season in free agency, they would sign three-point specialist Kristi Toliver (who had just won a championship with the Los Angeles Sparks in the previous season), upgrading their roster into a championship contender.
However, with Meesseman missing some games due to overseas commitment, and Tayler Hill out with a torn ACL midway through the season, the Mystics were the number 6 seed in the league with an 18-16 record. The Mystics defeated the Dallas Wings 86-76 in the first round elimination game. In the second round elimination game, the Mystics defeated the New York Liberty 82-68, advancing past the second round for the first time in franchise history, coming off a record-setting performance by Toliver, as she drained 9 three-pointers in the win. In the semi-finals, the Mystics were defeated by the Minnesota Lynx in a 3-game sweep, who would go on to win the 2017 WNBA championship. In the 2018 WNBA season, the Mystics played without their starting power forward Emma Meesseman, who played for Team Belgium in the FIBA World Tournament. The Mystics made some adjustments in their starting lineup to compensate for her absence. One month into the season, Tayler Hill made her return to the team after recovering from her ACL injury, but she was traded a month later to the Dallas Wings in exchange for Aerial Powers. That trade helped the Mystics boost their roster's wing depth. The Mystics finished as the #3 seed in the league with a 22-12 record, receiving a bye to the second round. In the second-round elimination game, they defeated the Los Angeles Sparks 96-64, advancing to the semifinals for the second year in a row. In the semifinals, the Mystics defeated the #2 seeded Atlanta Dream in an intense five-game series, advancing to the WNBA Finals for the first time in franchise history. In the finals, they were swept by the Seattle Storm.
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