WASHINGTON -- The Atlanta Dream are one win from their fourth trip to the WNBA finals and first since 2013.
Standing in their way are the Washington Mystics, who may not have their best player for Game 4 on Sunday afternoon at George Washington University's Smith Center.
The second-seeded Dream took a 2-1 series lead with an 81-76 victory over the third-seeded Mystics on Friday night. Tiffany Hayes had 23 points and 11 rebounds to lead visiting Atlanta, Brittney Sykes scored 17 points and Elizabeth Williams added 14.
Washington was without All-Star Elena Delle Donne, who suffered a bone bruise in her left knee in the closing moments of Game 2. Delle Donne sat out Saturday's practice, receiving treatment in hopes of helping the Mystics force a Game 5. She is averaging 26 points and 13 rebounds in the playoffs.
"Yeah, I think she's going to thug it out, especially with an elimination game," guard Natasha Cloud told the Washington Post. "She's a soldier. She's going to try. We'll see how it goes, but that's up to her, a game-time decision."
The Mystics are 1-4 this regular season and postseason in games without Delle Donne.
Washington coach Mike Thibault juggled his lineup Friday night, using four guards for much of the game. The lead changed hands 14 times in the first three quarters, but the Dream led throughout the fourth. Sykes' 3-pointer made it 77-66 with 2:38 remaining and the Mystics got no closer than five points the rest of the way.
Atlanta improved to 18-0 this season when taking a lead into the fourth quarter.
"This team knows how to win games late," Dream coach Nicki Collen told ESPN.com. "When you get into tight situations, there's rarely much panic with this group."
Aerial Powers came off the bench to lead Washington with 18 points and Ariel Atkins added 17. Washington shot 36 percent from the field and hit only 5 of 23 from beyond the arc.
"You can either feel sorry for yourself and just show up," Thibault told the Post regarding his message to the team, "or you can build on the good stuff from (Friday) night and shoot the ball a little better and get a win and go back (to Atlanta) and play a Game 5."
That would include Mystics guard Kristi Tolliver, who was held to seven points on 3-of-15 shooting (1 of 9 from 3-point range) by the Dream in Game 3.
"Me and (Alex) Bentley take turns (on Toliver)," Hayes told ESPN.com. "It gets us tired because she's all over the place. I can take a break when I'm tired and Bentley comes in and she takes a break when I'm in the game. It's good to have two people that have great defense on her at all times."
Atlanta is no stranger to adversity. They've been playing without All-Star forward Angel McCoughtry, who suffered a knee injury Aug. 7.Bet Now
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|Jessica Breland||Position: Forward (F) |
|Brittney Sykes||Position: Forward (F) |
|Elizabeth Williams||Position: Center (C) |
|Renee Montgomery||Position: Guard (G) |
|Tiffany Hayes||Position: Guard (G) |
|Elena Delle Donne||Position: Forward (F) |
|Ariel Atkins||Position: Forward (F) |
|LaToya Sanders||Position: Center (C) |
|Kristi Toliver||Position: Guard (G) |
|Natasha Cloud||Position: Guard (G) |