ATLANTA, GA – In a battle between two tired teams, the Los Angeles Sparks fended off the Atlanta Dream, 76-71, in overtime at State Farm Arena.
The loss ended a two-game win streak for the Dream, while the Sparks finished a three-game road trip with two straight victories.
For the Sparks, Riquna Williams led in scoring with 23, including 5-for-12 from the three-point area. But Williams received a surprise upon the team’s return to Los Angeles. The WNBA main office issued a report announcing that the league suspended her for 10 games for her role in an alleged domestic violence incident. She has been charged with assault and threatening someone with a firearm. The criminal case is ongoing.
At the earliest, Williams would be eligible for reinstatement on August 22, when Los Angeles hosts Indiana, assuming she does not appeal. There would be eight games left in the regular season.
The WNBA would also require counseling as a condition for her return.
This comes at a difficult stretch for the Sparks. Los Angeles finished a stretch of three road games in three games in six days. The Sparks head home to play Dallas on Thursday, before heading back to the East Coast for matchups with New York and Atlanta (again).
The Dream don’t have it easy either. The loss was the culmination of a three-game in five-day span. While these were home, the next stretch won’t be as accommodating. Atlanta plays at Chicago on Wednesday, Connecticut on Friday, and then Washington on Sunday. The latter two are second and third, respectively, in the WNBA standings.
But, when Los Angeles and Atlanta play their return engagement on the 23rd, it will be the last game before the week-long All-Star break.
The first Sparks-Dream contest was a tight one throughout. Los Angeles kept making runs but could never put Atlanta away. For their part, the Dream kept coming close to the lead but could not quite get over the top.
Alex Bentley tied it at 62 with a layup with twenty-nine seconds remaining. After a Sparks timeout, Chelsea Gray took the ball for Los Angeles on the inbound pass, brought it down the court, looked for an avenue, and buried an eight-foot jumper for a two-point lead with five seconds left.
Then it was coach Nikki Collen’s turn to take a timeout. Everyone at State Farm knew Tiffany Hayes would get the ball. She did not disappoint, hitting a layup of her own with just one second left to force the extra frame. Hayes would finish with a game-high 24 points.
In the overtime, Atlanta forged ahead with a Hayes floater. But the backbreaker came in the form of consecutive three-pointers from Williams. That propelled the Sparks to a five-point lead they would never relinquish.
The loss sends Atlanta to a 5-11 mark, tied with Dallas for league-worst. Los Angeles currently is in fifth with a record of 9-7.
Besides Hayes’ point totals, Atlanta’s Monique Billings provided a bright spot with a career-high 16 rebounds, with nine on the offensive end.
“I know that makes my team better and it brings us energy,” Billings said afterward. “They get energy off of my rebounds and it’s just all positivity from there.”
Coach Collen echoed the sentiment. “The bigger thing for me is she’s starting to understand why we do what we do and when we do (it),” she said. “That’s the knowing when to screen, to trap, and to switch. She’s starting to understand that. I think she’s done a good job in the last two games of doing that.”

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