Atlanta, GA -- The Atlanta Dream (8-9) took on the Phoenix Mercury (8-10) at 6 pm on Sunday at home in Atlanta after a three-game losing streak on the road against San Antonio, Seattle, and Los Angeles. The Mercury have had an equal number of wins versus losses since struggling throughout the first four games of the season.
An early bad jumper and bad pass from forward Angel McCoughtry, led to an easy layup opportunity for center Brittney Griner, who currently leads the WNBA in blocks. However, McCoughtry responded with a nice layup under pressure, followed by a long jumper that kept the Dream rolling. Turnovers by Phoenix kept the game even until a wide-open three by guard Diana Taurasi gave the Mercury the lead.
The Dream's Tiffany Hayes responded with a three of her own, followed by an assist to set up a wide-open layup by McCoughtry to force the Mercury to take its first timeout. Unsuccessful possessions by Phoenix and good shooting by the Dream, allowed Atlanta to have a seven-point lead at the end of the first, 27-20.
Griner returned in the second quarter after she found herself in foul trouble early in the game, and made an impact drawing fouls by the Dream. A three-pointer by Mercury's DeWanna Bonner and bad possessions by the Dream, allowed the Mercury to take the lead, but a three by Layshia Clarendon and a jumper by McCoughtry, gave the Dream some momentum.
However, good shooting and defense by the Mercury allowed them to maintain the lead at the half, 50-44. The Mercury's Griner has a season-high of 27 points, and she racked up 19 total at the half already. Griner would end up having the first triple-double in the WNBA since 2014, and only the sixth player to have one. According to McCoughtry, that was simply "why they won." The Mercury had three players with double-digit points at the half: Candace Dupree, Griner, and Taurasi.
Elizabeth Williams kicked off the third quarter with consecutive baskets, and a basket by Clarendon with a foul, put the Dream within one point, 52-51. A Bria Holmes' three-pointer and jumper by Sancho Lyttle, allowed Atlanta to regain the lead and force a timeout by the Mercury.
Tiffany Hayes drew a foul on Griner, increasing the Dream's lead by four and sent Griner to the bench with her fourth foul. Another three-point play by Hayes after the Mercury's Sonja Petrovic fouled, gave the Dream the lead heading into the fourth quarter, 70-65.
Hayes' determination to get to the free throw line, making all of her eight attempts, and McCoughtry's consecutive shots kept the Dream's offense scoring in the first few minutes of the final quarter. Griner's eighth block of the game came with four minutes remaining, and two free throws by Bonner gave the Mercury the opportunity to tie it back up.
"Movement, playing defense first, and getting stops. The zone helped us to congest them without fouling and then we can get out and run. Every time we move the ball on offense, good things happen," said Mercury Head Coach Sandy Brondello.
A clean three-pointer by Bonner was met by a response by Hayes, whose layup put the Dream within one point with two minutes to go. Hayes' 26 points marked her 12th double-digit point game of the season.
According to Dream Head Coach Michael Cooper, "She's been aggressive. Getting the ball to the basket. You probably would have seen a lot more points from her had Griner not been there, because she alters and changes a lot of things offensively, but I'm just proud of that."
A wide-open three by Phoenix's Lindsey Harding increased the Mercury's lead, and the Dream couldn't respond with less than a minute remaining.
"When we can hold them to under six points and have a run like that, especially in the fourth quarter, you know they came out hot in the third quarter and we kind of didn't respond well. But that fourth quarter we really turned it on, locked down, played a little zone, and I think that was able to help us get out and run a little bit," said Mercury's leading scorer Brittney Griner.
The Mercury secured the win with a score 95-87.
Moving forward, Cooper added, "You've got to stay positive. Now is not the time to get negative, because we're still in the playoff hunt. We'll look at tape, kind of make our adjustments here and there; I'm not going to be as bold as Pat Riley but I think we're going to win this next game."
The Atlanta Dream will resume play at home on Tuesday at 7 pm against the Seattle Storm.