Atlanta led by as much as nine in the fourth quarter, but the Mercury continued to bite away at the lead late in the game. Down by five with less than two minutes left, Diana Taurasi drew a shooting foul on a 3-pointer and made all three to cut it to two.
She had a chance to tie the game with a minute left on a baseline jumper, but it rattled out. On the other end, Brittney Sykes turned it over to give Taurasi another try.
This time, she connected. Using an off-balanced jumper on her left foot, Taurasi tied the game with 28 seconds left. Sancho Lyttle’s travel gave it back to Taurasi, and she came through again – this time on a step-back jumper to put Phoenix ahead, 84-82 with eight seconds left.
Off the inbound pass, Sykes, who Cooper trusted despite having a rough night offensively, used a screen to separate and coast into the lane for a layup to send the game into overtime.
Sykes had her fifth consecutive 20-point game.
“I was missing so many layups,” Sykes said. “I appreciated coach trusting me to make that final play even though how I was playing in the game. He still trusted me to carry out that last play in the game.”
The Dream dominated the overtime period, holding Phoenix to 3-of-13 shooting as they coasted ahead for the 8-point win.
Taurasi dominated the first half, but she made just three field goals on 12 attempts in the second half as Atlanta focused more effort and attention to stopping her. She finished with 31 points.
Atlanta came out the locker room on fire in the third quarter. A 19-4 run over the first 6:36 of the period brought it all the way back to tie the game at 60 – the first time the game had been tied since it was 6-6 in the first quarter. After the Mercury went back ahead by five, the Dream went on another run – this one a 10-2 jolt that put them ahead 71-68 going to the final period. Damiris Dantas’ layup with 1:46 left gave Atlanta its first lead of the game.
The Dream shot 63.2 percent in the third, while the Mercury made just 5-of-20 from the field.
Phoenix jumped out to a quick lead thanks to its backcourt. Taurasi knocked down two 3-pointers, a layup and a free throw, while Danielle Robinson hit three midrange jumpers and a pair of free throws to give the Mercury a 17-8 lead midway through the first quarter.
Atlanta suffered through sloppy play, turning the ball over six times in the first five minutes. The Mercury took a 29-17 lead after one period. The Dream shot just 25 percent, while Phoenix went 12-of-19 from the field.
The Mercury opened their biggest lead of the first half midway through the second quarter when Leilani Mitchell knocked down two free throws, giving Phoenix a 45-27 lead. Atlanta fought back with its first substantial run of the game to bring it within nine points late in the quarter. But an 8-2 run by the Mercury closed the half, and they took a 56-41 lead into the locker room.
Taurasi led first-half scoring with 20 points on 7-of-11 shooting. The Dream attempted just two 3-pointers in the half and shot 36.1 percent from the field. Phoenix finished the half with a scorching 61.1 percent mark.
Atlanta finished with 25 fast break points compared to Phoenix’s 16, and it had 54 points in the paint compared to Phoenix’s 38. The Dream made one more shot on one more attempt than the Mercury, as both teams shot just under 44 percent for the game.