Atlanta Dream head coach Nicki Collen shouts instructions to her team.
Photo: Hyosub Shin/hshin@ajc.com
Photo: Hyosub Shin/hshin@ajc.com

Dream drop three-game homestand finale to Sparks in overtime

The Dream were down two points with 4.2 seconds remaining against the Sparks Sunday afternoon at State Farm Arena. Alex Bentley had just tied the game for the first time since the third quarter, before an 8-footer from Los Angeles left Atlanta trailing again. 

Renee Montgomery inbounded the ball to Tiffany Hayes. With four seconds left, Hayes drove down an open lane for a layup to tie the game with one second on the clock. 

“The waves just opened up for me and I took it to the rim,” Hayes said.

The layup sent the game into a five-minute overtime, in which Hayes scored six of Atlanta’s seven points, but behind a 10-2 Sparks run in the final two minutes, the Dream succumbed in a 76-71 overtime loss. 

Hayes led all scorers with 24 points, 10-of-11 from the free-throw line; she added four assists, four rebounds and two steals to the Dream’s upset bid. Off the bench, Bentley had 12 points and Monique Billings grabbed a career-high 16 rebounds with nine points in 30 minutes. 

“I know that’s what I do well,” Billings said. “I just want to do what I do well for my team. I know that makes my team better and brings us energy.”

Defensively, the Dream held Chiney Ogwumike and her sister Nneka Ogwumike, who combined for 41 of the Sparks’ 90 points on Friday, to 21. 

Still with just 10.5 percent shooting from beyond the arc, the Dream’s defense wasn’t enough to secure a third-straight home win. 

“It’s hard to win games going 2-for-19 from the arc,” Atlanta head coach Nicki Collen said. “I would guess that of those 17 missed, 12 of them might’ve been unguarded. We have to make a higher percentage of those to consistently win.”

Both teams traded baskets for the first 20 minutes, with nine lead changes — seven in the first quarter alone — and five ties. The Sparks finished the quarter ahead at 16-12 off a 6-1 run in the last two minutes. 

In the second quarter, Atlanta battled back, outscoring Los Angeles 18-16 in that quarter and finishing within two points at 32-30. 

Bentley’s six points were the most for any Dream player, but with all starters and all four players off the bench scoring, Atlanta’s 30 points were truly a team effort.

In the third quarter, a 7-0 run from Atlanta tied the game at 38-all. The Sparks responded with a 10-2 run of their own to widen the lead to eight points, the widest margin yet. A 7-0 run from the Dream put Atlanta trailing by just one point headed into the fourth quarter.

Atlanta remained within four points in the fourth quarter, and Hayes’ layup sent the game into overtime. 

Thirty seconds into overtime, Atlanta secured its first lead since the second quarter, and two pointer from Hayes extended the lead to three, but a 10-2 run from the Sparks handed the Dream the loss at home.

Hayes said that the Dream’s identity is rooted in their defense.

“That’s who we are, that’s how we stay in games, that’s how we win games,” she said. “I think we did that today, still we just got to knock down a couple more shots.”

On Wednesday, Atlanta begins a three-game road trip in Chicago.

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