ATLANTA - Tiffany Hayes is known more as a defensive player for the Atlanta Dream, as the team’s head coach Michael Cooper acknowledged after Friday’s game against the Seattle Storm. Despite that reputation for his second-year guard, Cooper couldn’t help but praise Hayes’ work on the offensive end in helping the Dream snap a brief losing streak.
Hayes surpassed her point total for the first four games of the season, scoring 20 to lead five starters in double figures in the Dream’s 90-79 victory at Philips Arena.
Atlanta (3-2) had lost two consecutive games coming into the night, but the defending Eastern Conference champions didn’t trail over the final five minutes to hand Seattle its fifth loss in six games to open the 2014 campaign.
“Tiffany is a defensive player (but) she was big for us (on the offensive end),” said Cooper.
The game was tied at 61-61 with a little over six minutes to go in the fourth when Atlanta made its decisive run. It started with two free throws and a field goal by Erika de Souza (14 points), part of an eight-point final period for the center from Brazil.
Crystal Langhorne led all scorers with 21 points, but the Seattle forward’s 1 of 2 trip to the line, which got the Storm as close as they would be the rest of the way at 65-62 at the 4:17 mark, was her first points since 5:39 remained in the third quarter. Angel McCoughtry, who had 12 of her 18 points and five of her eight assists in the second half, assisted on a basket by Sancho Lyttle (13 points) and McCoughtry’s pull-up jumper got the Dream going on a 15-7, game-ending run.
Seattle equaled its largest lead at 48-41 on a steal and lay up from Tanisha Wright with 5:15 to play in the third, and after Nicole Powell’s 3-pointer still held a 51-45 cushion. The Dream followed with a 12-0 spurt as McCoughtry scored five points and assisted on Lyttle’s run-capping basket that made it a 57-51 game with a minute to go in the period.
“Great teams have these 12-0 runs, and it happened to us in the third quarter,” said Cooper.
Seattle stayed close and Noelle Quinn’s 3 of 4 trip to the free-throw line evened things at 61-61 at the 6:20 mark.
Langhorne and Temeka Johnson carried the Storm in the opening half, helping the visitors take a 36-35 lead into the halftime locker room.
Langhorne, a sixth-year forward out of Maryland, picked up two quick field goals over a 35-second stretch, including a lay up off a pass from Johnson, and Seattle led 36-33. McCoughtry, the Dream’s leading scorer who was second in the WNBA in the category coming into the night, struggled in a 3 of 9 shooting, six-point first half, but her short jumper as time expired pulled the Dream to within one point at the break.
Late in the first, Lyttle and McCoughtry teamed up on three consecutive baskets with McCoughtry assisting on two Lyttle buckets and Lyttle returning the favor on a McCoughtry lay up. That was part of a 10-3 Dream run that put the hosts ahead 20-14 with 1:22 left.
It was a tight second quarter with the largest advantage coming at the 2:51 mark when Johnson, who was the only other Seattle player in double figures with 13 points, hit a jumper and the Storm led 27-23.
An 8-1 Atlanta run, aided by half of Hayes’ 12 first-half points, put the Dream up 31-28 with just under three minutes left until halftime.
Langhorne’s previous season-best was a 15-point effort May 23 against Connecticut. For Atlanta, Jasmine Thomas chipped in with 11 points.