ATLANTA — Spurred by Tiffany Hayes’ biggest offensive outburst of the season, the Atlanta Dream snapped a two-game losing streak on Friday with an 80-69 victory over the Seattle Storm at Philips Arena.
Hayes, who averaged 11.3 points per game last season, had struggled through the first four games, averaging only 4.8 in starting two of the four games. However, she broke out in a big way on Friday with a team-high and personal season-high of 20 points on 6-of-9 shooting.
She also went plus-20.
"Tiffany is a defensive player," Dream coach Michael Cooper said. "And I liken her to myself when I used to play. Sometimes you have to present yourself defensively in order for your offense to come around. She had a tough assignment tonight. She played (Tanisha) Wright and then she played (Sue) Bird and sometimes when you play the game that way, defense-first, it helps with your offense and she was big for us, especially scoring 12 points in the first half and then down the stretch."
Hayes said she wasn’t frustrated by her offensive production in the first four games. She said she knew that eventually it would come.
"It’s always just whatever the team needs from me and if I’m hot, I’m going to keep shooting," said Hayes, in her third season. "First shot went down, your confidence goes up. You keep shooting and they keep going in. You keep doing what you need to do for your team to win and that’s just what happened."
The Dream took control of the game midway through the third quarter. They trailed by 48-41, their biggest deficit of the game, after Wright scored off of an Atlanta turnover with 5:13 left in the period.
From there, the Dream went on a 18-5 run to close out the period and take a six-point lead into the fourth quarter. Rookie Shoni Schimmel got the run going with a putback. Hayes and Angel McCoughtry had five points apiece during the run and Sancho Lyttle poured in six.
Nonetheless, the Dream had to survive a scoring drought to start the fourth quarter. Through the first five and a half minutes, they scored two points, allowing the Storm to draw even at 61-61.
"Sometimes you hit that brick wall sometimes," McCoughtry said. "The game is a game of runs but we just kept fighting. When you hit that wall, you’ve got to try to climb over it and we didn’t get down on ourselves. … We stayed more positive and got the result and the win."
As a result, the Dream closed out the game on a 19-8 run. Center Erika DeSouza had eight of those points. She finished with 14 points and eight rebounds.
The Dream (3-2) entered with losses in two straight, including its most recent game in overtime. It avoided a loss to a Seattle team that fell to 1-5. The Storm, which lost its first three games of the season all by double digits, finished a five-game road trip on Friday.
"We’re not worried about other teams’ record, we’re worried about ours," Cooper said. "And, again, it’s important, just like I told the ladies, just like winning is contagious, so is losing. So it’s important that we did break that streak but we’re going to lose some more games. It’s how you lose the games that’s important to me … as long as we come competitive and we play defense as a team we’ll give ourselves a chance to win."
In the first half the Dream had little answer for Seattle center Crystal Langhorne. The 6-foot-2 Langhorne entered the game averaging 9.8 points per game but she scored 14 points of the Storm’s 36 points at halftime on 6-of-7 shooting.
The Dream did a better job of containing in her in the second half, holding her to seven points. She finished with a game-high 21 points on 9-of-10 shooting.
"She’s an energy player," Cooper said of Langhorne. "She’s a hustle player and they don’t run offense to her so she does a good job of getting her offense off the offensive boards so when you have a player like that you have to play energy with energy and I didn’t think we were energized enough in the first half but then Sancho (Lyttle) came on and when I took her out and brought Amanda (Thompson) in, I thought Sancho picked up and then Erika followed suit."
The Dream started off hot, shooting 56.3 percent in the first quarter en route to a 20-16 lead. However, they went cold in the second quarter, making just 5-of-15 shots and trailed by a point at the half.
Hayes’ 12 points led the Dream at halftime. McCoughtry, the league’s second-leading scorer at 22.3 points per game, had six points at halftime. At one point, McCoughtry was shooting 3-for-12 but then she hit four of her next five shots in the third and fourth quarters. She finished with 18 points on 8-of-20 shooting.
Cooper said the Dream, early on, remain a work in progress. McCoughtry agreed.
"We’re still trying to figure out our chemistry and figure out the new system that coach Coop has," she said. "That’s normal when you have a new coach. But I feel like through all that, we’re still applying ourselves and everyone is continuing to fight through the adversity."â