The Washington Mystics held on for a while but ultimately couldn't overcome the absence of Elene Delle Donne—who sat out due to a bone bruise in her knee—as the Atlanta Dream moved within one win of making the WNBA Finals.
WASHINGTON — Tiffany Hayes had 23 points and 11 rebounds and the Atlanta Dream beat the Washington Mystics 81-76 on Friday night to take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five WNBA semifinal series.
Washington played without injured All-Star Elena Delle Donne.
Brittney Sykes scored 17 points, and Elizabeth Williams had 14 for the Dream. Atlanta is one victory away from the franchise's fourth finals appearance and first since 2013.
The lead changed 14 times through three quarters but never in the fourth. Sykes's third 3-pointer of the game gave the Dream their largest lead at 77-66 with 2:38 left. Washington scored the next six points and trailed 79-74 with 35.7 seconds remaining, but would get no closer.
Delle Donne suffered a bone bruise on her left knee in the closing minutes of Tuesday's 78-75 Game 2 loss at Atlanta. Washington's offense labored without its leading scorer. The Mystics shot 36% from the field and 5 of 23 on 3-point attempts.
Atlanta entered the final period leading 56-54 and extended the lead to 66-58 on Sykes's 3-pointer with 7:15 remaining.
Kristi Toliver, who joined Delle Donne in the 2018 All-Star game, had seven points on 3 of 15 shooting and missed eight of nine 3-point attempts. Her backcourt partner, Natasha Cloud scored three points.
Aerial Powers came off the bench to lead Washington with a season-high 18 points. Ariel Atkins scored 17 points.
Delle Donne's absence meant both teams played without its best player. The Dream closed out the regular season sans All-Star forward Angel McCoughtry, who suffered a knee injury Aug. 7 against Las Vegas.
Atlanta led 37-34 at halftime and extended the lead to 48-38 in the third quarter before Washington rallied with a 12-1 run. Toliver hit her first 3-pointer in that second half stretch after starting 0 for 7 and 1 of 11 overall. ... Delle Donne dressed for the game and sat on the bench. She did not walk with a discernible limp, but was deliberate with her gait going to and from the locker room. ... New York Islanders coach Barry Trotz, who directed the Washington Capitals to the 2018 Stanley Cup title, sat courtside.
Game 4 is set for Sunday in Washington.