Courtney Williams dribbled around a screen and pulled up for an open 3-point look on the right wing with 1.6 seconds to go in overtime on Saturday afternoon at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
It was a simple play with the game tied at 87. No messing around, just a matter of taking the first available shot, and it went in.
C. Williams, who finished with 31 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists had just hit a game-tying 3-pointer with less space on the Atlanta Dream’s previous possession before teammate Elizabeth Williams rebounded a missed three by Michaela Onyenwere of the New York Liberty with 11.5 ticks remaining.
The three with 1.6 to go proved to be the game-winner in a 90-87 Dream victory because New York’s Sabrina Ionescu missed a one-handed, non-dominant trey at the buzzer.
The Liberty put rookie defensive specialist DiDi Richards in the game for Ionescu with 9.8 seconds remaining to guard C. Williams. But there was no help off the screen and Richards had no chance to defend the no-hesitation decision by C. Williams.
Onyenwere, who has exceeded expectations in her rookie season, especially as a 3-point shooter, made a triple with 1:17 to play that put New York up 87-84. The No. 6 pick finished 6-of-14 from beyond the arc with a career- and team-high 29 points. She shattered her previous career high of 18 set in her impressive WNBA debut.
In what was a thrilling fourth-quarter finish, E. Williams (12 points, 11 rebounds) scored on a second-chance opportunity inside after rebounding her own miss to tie the game at 82 with 10.6 seconds to go. She then blocked a Betnijah Laney paint attempt with 4.5 to go to force overtime.
The Dream were up 28-17 after one before the Liberty won the second 28-21 to cut it to four at the break. The third and fourth quarters were more closely contested.
Laney had 20 points and 11 assists in defeat while teammate Sami Whitcomb added 19 points off 5-of-7 shooting from deep and four steals. Tiffany Hayes added 12 points and six helpers to the winning cause. Ionescu was held to six points and three assists.
The Dream remain a Top 5 team with the win. They are tied for fourth with the mighty Las Vegas Aces at 4-2 and have won four in a row.
The Liberty are in third place at 5-2, but have not beaten any team that currently has a winning or .500 record. Their two-game winning streak was snapped with the loss.
Phoenix Mercury (3-3) over Dallas Wings (1-4), 89-85
Brittney Griner scored 27 points for the second game in a row and added 16 rebounds, four assists and the 14th dunk of her career (19th if you count All-Star Games) to lead the Mercury in this one.
Griner owns 13 of the 16 regular-season dunks in WNBA history.
“As soon as I caught it I knew (I would try to dunk),” Griner said. “I was super hyped. My sister was in the stands and sister-in-law, brother-in-law, some friends. And me and my sister, we always flex and do crazy stuff. So I saw her hyped and I just got hyped. At home in Texas, you got a big dunk, so it was great.”
“It’s insane to see in a game, especially coming from me,” said Skylar Diggins-Smith, who assisted the dunk. “She locked in and she could do that every night if she wants to. And for it to happen like that in the fourth quarter, legs is a little bit tired, it was a huge momentum play for us.”
Diggins-Smith was good for 21 points, six rebounds and seven assists while Kia Nurse also notched 21 points off a 5-of-10 effort from beyond the arc.
The Wings trailed by as many as nine in the first five minutes of the fourth quarter but cut it to three with 5:14 to play on Kayla Thornton free throws. They went on to trail by 14 with 1:45 to go and yet miraculously cut it to three again with 10.5 seconds remaining on Marina Mabrey free throws. Mabrey could have cut it to two, but went 2-of-3 from the line after being fouled on a 3-point attempt. Diggins-Smith then sank two free throws to extend the Mercury’s lead to five and a Tyasha Harris free throw to cut it to four and a missed Arike Ogunbowale three at the buzzer were all Dallas had to offer after that.
The Wings managed to make a game of it for the fourth time in a row (they lost all four games), but were playing catch-up all game long after Phoenix got off to a 21-5 lead.
Mabrey continued to impress with 24 points, eight rebounds and three steals. Ogunbowale also scored 24 points and is second in the league in scoring with 23.4 points per game.
Late in the fourth, Notre Dame alums in Mabrey and Diggins-Smith go into it a little bit and a double technical was called.
After the game, Diggins-Smith said all is good in Irish Nation.
“We’re always gonna be good,” she said. “Me, Marina, Arike, all my Irish, we always good. We’re just competitors, that’s what you see. Everybody’s trying to win, everybody’s competitive. And so we had a friendly conversation and that was it.”