|Dream face Liberty hoping to keep winning streak alive|
The Atlanta Dream is the hottest team in the WNBA, bringing a five-game winning streak into their game Thursday against the New York Liberty at McCamish Pavilion on the campus of Georgia Tech University.
The Dream are the talk of the league right now -- not just because of their win streak but how they extended it. Atlanta's Tiffany Hayes sank a shot from beyond half-court at the buzzer to help the Dream to an 86-83 victory over Connecticut on Tuesday night.
Connecticut's Alyssa Thomas canned two free throws with 31.9 seconds remaining to tie the game at 83. After an Atlanta miss and a subsequent tie-up, the Sun inbounded the ball with 10.9 seconds left. But Hayes intercepted a pass in the corner, took two dribbles and swished the long game-winner.
It was Hayes' first game-winning half-court shot and she was rewarded for it.
The Dream had practiced half-court shots in their shootaround earlier in the day and Atlanta coach Nicki Collen upped the ante from the normal $100 for a made basket to $200. No one on the Dream made the shot in practice.
Hayes made up for it when it really counted.
"It felt good, but sometimes it feels good and doesn't go in," Hayes said. "This one felt good and went in."
Hayes ended up receiving the $200 promised for making a half-court shot, and teammate Angel McCoughtry added $100 to the reward.
McCoughtry scored 24 points off the bench for Atlanta (13-9) in the win over Connecticut. Hayes finished with 18 points, and Elizabeth Williams added 16.
Hayes' 3-point field goal on Tuesday against Connecticut, which traveled 46 feet, 7 inches, was the longest game-winner made in the last 10 seconds of a regular-season game in league history, according to the WNBA.
Hayes has been one of the best players in the WNBA this season. Her game-winning shot amplified the debate about her absence from the All-Star team.
"It meant a lot to make that shot," Hayes told ESPN on Wednesday morning. "My teammates and my coaches had my back, telling me I deserve (the all-star election)."
New York (7-15) heads to the Atlanta off a 104-87 loss at Dallas on Tuesday that ended the Liberty's two-game winning streak. The Wings' Liz Cambage scored a league-record 53 points in the game as New York had no answer inside for Dallas' sterling post player.
"(Cambage) was hitting them from all over," New York coach Katie Smith said. "She wasn't just lobbing them up and shooting layups, she was knocking down three balls left and right. I'm disappointed we gave her that many, but kudos to her, she was on tonight."
Kia Nurse scored 25 points while making four 3-pointers, and Tina Charles added 19 for New York in the loss.
The Liberty trailed by as many as 19 points in the first half and rallied to lead 70-69 late in the third quarter. But Dallas began the fourth quarter with a 12-3 run and waltzed home as Cambage scored 20 of her points over the final 10 minutes.
"We can't start the game the way we came out." Charles said of the loss. "The way we came out in the third quarter, that's the way we have to start the game. We have to put together a collective effort like that for 40 minutes. That's the only way we're going to win ball games and try to get ourselves back in the playoff run."
New York beat the Dream 79-72 at home on June 19; the two teams will play a third game on Aug. 12 in New York.