ATLANTA — Erika de Souza scored 10 of her 18 points during a decisive fourth quarter and the Atlanta Dream beat the Washington Mystics 80-72 win in the decisive Game 3 of their WNBA first-round series Monday night.
The Dream advanced to face the fourth-seeded Indiana Fever in the Eastern Conference finals, which will begin Thursday in Atlanta. The Fever, who won the WNBA title last season, eliminated top-seeded Chicago in two games.
Tiffany Hayes had 18 points and Armintie Herrington added 14 points for the Dream, while Monique Currie led the Mystics with 22 points.
The Dream trailed 57-55 after three quarters, but a 15-2 run early in the fourth quarter put Atlanta in position to advance to the Eastern Conference finals for the third time in four years. De Souza had six points during the run, emotionally gesturing to the crowd as Atlanta took control.
She helped the Dream to a 39-24 rebounding advantage with 14, as Atlanta was forced to overcome a poor shooting night from the league’s leading scorer Angel McCoughtry. She finished with 13 points going just 4 for 19 from the floor. She did have seven assists.
The Mystics, coming off a horrific 25-percent shooting performance in Game 2, hit eight of their first 10 shots en route to a 22-11 lead in the first quarter. The Dream answered with an 11-0 run that carried over into the second quarter sparked by the play of Herrington. She had 10 points, three rebounds, three assists and three steals in the first half. She had three layups during the run, the last of which came off a steal of an inbounds pass in the backcourt.
For the Mystics, it was a disappointing end for WNBA Coach of the Year Mike Thibault, who took over a 5-29 team and guided them into the playoffs for the first time since 2010 with a 17-17 record. The loss to the Dream marks the fifth straight playoff series loss for the Mystics dating back to 2002.
The Dream went 3-1 against the Fever this season. Atlanta was eliminated by the Fever in the first round last season as Indiana went on to win the WNBA title. In 2011, Atlanta beat Indiana in the first round of the playoffs.