Storm forward Natasha Howard was voted to the All-WNBA first team for the first time in her career.

Howard, this year’s WNBA Defensive Player of the Year, averaged career highs of 18.1 points (fourth in the league), 8.2 rebounds (sixth) and 2.18 steals (second) to go with 1.74 blocks (third). She was voted to the All-Defensive first team for the second straight year.

Howard, 28, said Sunday, “I just want to thank everyone for believing in me, but I also want to thank my teammates and the Storm organization for believing in me.”

Elena Delle Donne received the most All-WNBA votes, with former Gonzaga guard Courtney Vandersloot of the Chicago Sky second.

Phoenix center Brittney Griner was third in the balloting, Los Angeles guard Chelsea Gray was fourth and Howard was fifth.

Mystics take 2-1 series lead in WNBA Finals

UNCASVILLE, Conn. – Washington didn’t need Elena Delle Donne to be a superstar Sunday, they just needed her to be out on the court.

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The WNBA’s most valuable player provided an emotional lift by playing through a back injury and teammates responded with a solid effort to beat Connecticut 94-81 and move the Mystics a victory from winning their first championship.

Delle Donne, who has a herniated disk that is pinching a nerve in her back, had not practiced since leaving Game 2 with back spasms. She finished with 13 points, hitting 5 of her 6 shots and played 26 minutes as Washington took a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five WNBA Finals.

“I just want to be a leader for this team. I love them. I did nothing, I was just on the court, they carried me and they’ve done that all season long,” Delle Donne said. “I love them to death. We have one more to go.”

The 6-foot-5 wing was clearly limited in her movement and stayed mostly on the perimeter, but was effective enough to command the attention of Connecticut’s defense.

“Her presence alone, whether she’s 100% or 10%, just instills confidence in the rest of the group,” said guard Kristi Toliver. “She showed a lot of character. She showed a lot of heart just being out there on the court today.”

Toliver, Emma Meesseman and Natasha Cloud carried the offense. Meesseman had 21 points off the bench, including nine to start the fourth quarter. Toliver added 20 points and 10 assists. Cloud chipped in with 19 points. The team made 16 of 27 shots from behind the arc.

Washington will try and close out the series Tuesday night in Connecticut.

Delle Donne made an early three-pointer and the Mystics made 6 of 9 shots from behind the arc in the first quarter to take a 32-17 lead after 10 minutes.