(ATLANTA) – Earlier this season, Atlanta Dream head coach Fred Williams called guard Tiffany Hayes the team’s "spark". Given the Dream’s recent run of poor luck and a bad start against the Washington Mystics, they needed one. Hayes would come off the bench to provide 23 points in 24 minutes, tying her career high and extending the Dream’s winning streak against Washington to eight games with a 76-58 home victory.
The Dream were helped by the fact that the Mystics were held to single digit scoring in both the second and third quarter. "That was contributed to by us stepping it up, getting in the passing lanes, rotating a couple players, and letting players take shots that they normally don’t get to take," Williams said.
Mystics head coach Mike Thibault had a blunter take. "We got our ass kicked. We scored almost half our points in the first quarter, and then they jumped in the passing lanes and we accommodated by turning it over. They became more aggressive and we didn’t match it. When they get in a roll in this building it’s hard to stop. They were really good once they got going. We kind of hit them and surprised them early, and that only served to tick them off."
Atlanta found itself behind early, falling behind 12-2 after a quick timeout by Williams less than two minutes into the first quarter. Both teams shot well, shooting over 50 percent, but Atlanta’s six first quarter turnovers helped the Mystics to a 28-21 lead after the first 10 minutes.
"We moved the ball," Thibault said. "Part of it is that Atlanta was kind of on their heels in the first quarter. Once they became the aggressor and got a couple of steals, they were better."
It would take a while for the Dream to find its aggression. That came in the role of both Hayes – who scored 10 points in the second quarter – and a double technical foul against Mystics center Michelle Snow and Atlanta center Erika de Souza after Snow hacked de Souza going for a layup.
"People try to bully us sometimes," Atlanta forward Angel McCoughtry said, "and we just need to start not letting people push us around."
Down 37-35 with 5.1 seconds left, Hayes scored on a 3-pointer from the left corner to give the Dream a 38-37 first half lead. The rest of the game was all Atlanta. Washington shot just 25.7 percent for the second half (9-for-35) and no Mystics player scored in double figures, whereas both Hayes and McCoughtry added 13 second-half points each to Atlanta’s victory.
Was there a positive for the Mystics to take away? "No, nothing," Thibault said. "There was nothing positive other than that we have to learn not to be so hard-headed."
Hayes’s tie of her career high led all scorers with 23 points. Angel McCoughtry added 22 points and eight rebounds. The Dream won every quarter after the first one.
Point guard Ivory Latta led all Washington players with 12 points, eight of which were scored in the first quarter. Forward Monique Currie scored 10 points on 4-for-15 shooting, and guard Matee Ajavon finished with 0-for-6 shooting and a single point from a free throw.
* The Dream have a 10-1 record at home this season.
* Dream guard Armintie Herrington finished the game with 52 steals on the season so far. This ties her season career high, set with the Dream in 2011.
* Williams on Hayes coming back from knee surgery: "I’ve really had to watch her minutes the last few games. She got 24 minutes. That’s a lot of minutes for her."
* Williams on the double-technical: "It was a very physical game all the way through and to that point and I think it started to get tight with the calls. It happens in basketball, in any sport, and I think it got both teams fired up at one point."
* Williams on the game’s first timeout with less than two minutes of play: "I had just watched a film when we played at home last time and we were down 10-0 and I saw the same thing happen and I said I’ve got to stop this right now and called a timeout quickly."
* More on Sancho Lyttle and her progress. According to Williams, the cast is off but "…she has a boot on…she was down in the chair shooting a little bit. To build upper body strength you can shoot some drills. She can shoot some shots and free throws with one leg.