Mystics teammate says Elena Delle Donne played through 3 herniated disks in Finals

WASHINGTON -- It was known that Elena Delle Donne was dealing with back problems in the WNBA Finals. But not until after the Washington Mystics won the WNBA title on Thursday -- and she had 21 points and nine rebounds -- was it revealed how bad Delle Donne's back really was.

She did not have one herniated disk in her back, as the team had announced. She had three.

Her teammate Natasha Cloud announced this during the post-game press conference following the 89-78 victory over Connecticut. Delle Donne, after joking to Cloud, "The medical staff is going to kill you," confirmed this was true.

"Yeah, we have a great medical staff," Delle Donne said, "so they've been able to help me a lot in this week of just trying to get me to feel as good as I possibly can.

"But I felt pretty decent today, and I also knew this was the last game. I can rest now. So I felt like I was able to kind of give a little bit more, especially on the defensive end."

Delle Donne, the 2019 WNBA MVP, missed all but the first 3 1/2 minutes of Game 2 on Oct. 1 due to what was reported the next day as one herniated disk. She played 26 minutes of Game 3 on Sunday, which the Mystics won 94-81. But the 6-foot-5 Delle Donne stayed mostly on the perimeter then and felt she wasn't moving well at all. Still, she had 13 points and six rebounds.

In Tuesday's Game 4, a 90-86 Sun victory, she played 30 minutes, getting 11 points and five rebounds. She felt she moved better then, but still didn't have her usual elevation, which was evident on a late jump shot.

"I'm hoping tonight I'll have my lift under me; I don't know if I will fully," Delle Donne said before Game 5. "But I'm going to try to attack."

She did that Thursday, playing more like her usual self. Delle Donne has dealt with injuries in all three of her WNBA Finals appearances, with a back problem in 2014 when she was with the Chicago Sky and a bone bruise in her knee last year when the Mystics were swept by Seattle.

Delle Donne, a 2016 Olympic gold medalist, is supposed to be part of USA Basketball's squad that will play four top college teams in November, but she said she'll have to evaluate her availability starting next week.

But Thursday, she was all smiles.

"It just felt great to be out there and to be able to compete," she said, "and like I've said before, this team is so good and was able to help carry me through."