NEW YORK (AP)Tiffany Hayes made the most of her first game of the season, providing the spark in overtime to lift the Atlanta Dream over the New York Liberty.
Hayes, who missed the first 19 games with a right knee injury, scored nine of her 21 points in OT to give the Dream a 92-81 victory over the Liberty on Thursday night.
”It feels great to have all our players, still missing Nia (Coffey),” said Atlanta coach Tanisha Wright about finally having an almost full roster.
Hayes scored the first seven points in OT, hitting a 3-pointer from each wing and then getting fouled shooting another 3. She made only one of those free throws to make it 86-79.
Natasha Howard finally got New York on the board in the extra session with a layup to cut the deficit to 88-81 with just over 2 minutes left. Atlanta (9-11) wouldn’t let the Liberty get any closer.
New York (8-11) led 79-76 with 7.5 seconds left when Erica Wheeler took the ball and dribbled the clock down before hitting a 3-pointer from the top of the key at the buzzer to send the game to overtime. Wheeler had missed most of June with a left foot sprain.
The Liberty trailed 63-50 early in the fourth quarter before scoring 17 straight points to take its first lead since the first half. Dolson, who scored 14 points in the period, had the first seven during the burst to energize the large crowd at Barclays Center celebrating Pride Night.
”We had one good quarter tonight,” Liberty coach Sandy Brondello said. ”Lessons learned and we move forward into July.”
Dolson finished with 20 points while Sabrina Ionescu had 17 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists for New York, which fell to 0-3 in overtime games this season.
Hayes, who finished 8-for-15 from the field, briefly left the game early in the fourth quarter when she hit her head on the floor after a rebound. She was escorted back to the locker room and returned about 2 minutes later.
AD Durr returned to New York after the Liberty traded Durr to Atlanta earlier this month. Durr missed the last two years while dealing with complications from COVID-19. Durr scored five points.
Wheeler admitted the tying shot wasn’t originally for her.
”The shot was to go to AD, but as a point guard, time awareness, saw 2.3 seconds left and made a basketball move and hit the shot,” Wheeler said.
New York led 18-13 after one quarter before the Dream took a 41-36 lead at the half behind 10 points from Kristy Wallace. Atlanta extended the lead to 61-48 heading into the final quarter before the Liberty rallied.
Brondello said injured players Rebecca Allen (concussion) and Jocelyn Willougby (quad tear) were close to returning.
”Bec Allen is close to coming back and Jocelyn Willoughby. So that gives us a little bit more depth. We have to integrate them in. I think that’s important for us,” Brondello said. ”But I love those challenges because we need to know where we’re at and what do we need to work on as we move into the end of the season.”
Dream: Return home to host Seattle on Sunday.
Liberty: Begin a three-game road trip in Los Angeles on Sunday leading into the All-Star break.
More AP women’s basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/womens-basketball and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports