Eight days ago, the Indiana Fever had two chances to defeat the Atlanta Dream in overtime. Sunday at Philips Arena, the Fever controlled the extra session and as a result put an end to their winless start.
The Fever scored the first six points of overtime and four players scored in double figures in an 82-77 victory. Indiana snapped a three-game losing streak to start the season, which included an 90-88, double overtime loss at home to the Dream May 17. That day, the Fever missed a potential go-ahead 3-pointer in the first overtime and a potential winning three with a second to play in the second extra session. Sunday was a much different story.
Erlana Larkins and Briann January each converted a lay up and Sydney Carter hit a wild, banked-in jumper that made it 74-68 1:16 into overtime. Atlanta, the defending Eastern Conference champions which after starting the year 2-0 have dropped two straight, got to within 74-70 on the last of Jasmine Thomas’ 17 points. But another lay up, this time by Natasha Howard, and Larkins’ basket off a turnover gave the visitors some breathing room at 78-71 with 1:50 to go.
“(In overtime) I thought we were more fresh,” said Indiana coach Lin Dunn.
Larkins had a monster game on the boards, collecting a franchise-record 22 rebounds, two of which immediately proceeded a pair of 1 of 2 trips to the free-throw line and put Indiana ahead 80-74. With Atlanta climbing to within 80-77 late on a 3-pointer by the Dream’s leading scorer Angel McCoughtry (game-high 19 points), Carter hit two from the charity stripe to seal the road victory.
“We could’ve won the game in regulation if we had just hit our free throws,” said Dunn, whose team was 20 of 30 from the stripe in the first four quarters of play. “It was a real grind for each team to score.”
With just over four minutes to play in the fourth quarter, McCoughtry nailed a 3-pointer that gave Atlanta its first lead since six and a half minutes remained in the third at 68-66.
January (team-high 16 points) had a beautiful, reverse lay up to even things up at 68-68 at the two-minute mark. Those were the last points of regulation, though Carter had a chance to give Indiana the lead with 1:18 to play, but missed two free throws, and Thomas missed a lay up with 27 seconds left, while the Dream’s final shot, taken by McCoughtry with 2.8 seconds left, wasn’t close.
It was no more than a five-point cushion for Indiana for nearly the entire third quarter until Karima Christmas capped a quick, 6-0 run with a three-point play that put the visitors ahead 63-55 at the 1:12 mark.
Thomas polished off a fine stretch as the third-year guard from Duke had a three-point play and a long jumper in the corner for five of her 11 third-quarter points that got the Dream to within 64-60 heading into the final period.
Atlanta led by as much as five points in the opening quarter and still led 23-19 after an Erika de Souza lay up 15 seconds into the second quarter.
The Dream went three and a half minutes without a point, and Indiana’s 9-0 run - three different players made baskets including January’s 3-pointer during the spurt - and the Fever led 28-23 with 6:20 to go in the half.
Thanks in large part to Sancho Lyttle, who had a pair of jumpers as part of a 10-point opening half, Atlanta took the lead back briefly at 31-30 with four minutes to go.
Indiana reasserted itself over the final stretch of the half getting a 3-pointer from January and Larkins’ conventional three-point play to go into the halftime locker room up 39-35.
The Fever will host Connecticut Thursday, while Atlanta entertains Seattle Friday at 7:30 p.m.