Elena Delle Donne of the Washington Mystics will continue treatment on her back this week, and coach Mike Thibault reiterated that an update will come Saturday about her status for Sunday's Game 3 (ABC, 3:30 p.m. ET) of the WNBA Finals at Connecticut.
Delle Donne, the 2019 WNBA MVP, played just 3 minutes, 28 seconds before leaving with back issues in the Mystics' 99-87 loss in Game 2 in Washington on Tuesday night.
Delle Donne had an MRI on Wednesday, and it was announced later that day by the team she had a herniated disk in her back. The release said there would be an update Saturday, and Thibault said Thursday the timeline is the same.
"She's having treatment now. It's obviously extensive, it's with our doctors and physical therapists," Thibault said on a teleconference Thursday. "I talk to her once or twice a day, and I've already seen her today. I'm updated fairly regularly."
The Mystics had to play Game 3 of the semifinals last year without Delle Donne, who suffered a knee injury in Game 2. But she returned for the last two games of that series, and then played all three games of the WNBA Finals, which Washington lost to Seattle.
"She's in good spirits," teammate Natasha Cloud said Thursday. "She's going to be a leader regardless; that's who she is.
"We have to prepare for Elena to not be in the game. It's a bonus if she is. We're extremely hopeful that she will be. But every person, one through 12, has a role on this team and has significance. So we're extremely capable."
Thibault was most displeased with the Mystics' defense Tuesday, and he said that needs to improve regardless of Delle Donne's status.
"We can do some things better; that's both individual and team pride stuff," Thibault said. "It's staying focused on the most important things in order of priority. It's a little different in preparing for a game like this when you know ahead of time that Elena's hurt.
"That happened three to four minutes into the game, and it took us a little bit of time to recover from it. Responsibilities change, too. I think we'll have a better mindset just going into the game of what we need to do."
The Mystics have outscored the Sun by 12 points with Delle Donne on the court in the WNBA Finals, and have been outscored by 15 when she's off the court.
Connecticut coach Curt Miller said while Delle Donne's absence is big, he doesn't expect Washington to do much strategically different if she's not playing. Emma Meesseman, Tianna Hawkins and LaToya Sanders are all veteran players who will try to boost Washington's inside game.
"You have to do your due diligence and prepare for both," Miller said of lineups with and without Delle Donne. "They have a system, a schematic way of playing. And they can plug Emma into a lot of the same things they plug Elena into. They can still play big with Hawkins, Emma and LaToya Sanders together. So you still have big lineups to prepare for.
"This longer stretch between [Games] 2 and 3 gives us the mindset that Delle Donne will be back and will play. We go in with the anticipation she will be back."
Meesseman leads the Mystics in scoring during the playoffs at 19.8 points per game. Delle Donne, who didn't score in Tuesday's brief time on the court, is at 17.8. Also averaging in double figures are guards Kristi Toliver (13.8) and Cloud (11.3.).
But as much as they miss Delle Donne on offense, her absence on defense and on the boards made a big difference Tuesday, with Connecticut post player Jonquel Jones getting 32 points and 18 rebounds. Delle Donne averaged 8.3 rebounds in the regular season, and is at 6.4 for the playoffs. And she was the one primarily guarding Jones in the first game. Jones didn't get any offensive rebounds in Game 1, but got nine in Game 2.
Those second chances added up.
"At the end of the day, they got 84 shots and we got 72," Thibault said, "and that was the difference in the game."