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Hayes, McCoughtry lead Dream past Washington

AP - Sports

ATLANTA (AP) -- Tiffany Hayes has been back four games since arthroscopic knee surgery sidelined her for a month.

Since her return, the Atlanta Dream's bench has been energized.

''We have to watch her minutes, but tonight she was in rhythm, and I didn't want to take her out,'' Atlanta coach Fred Williams said. ''I told her if she keeps playing hard, points will come.''

Hayes tied her career high with 23 points, Angel McCoughtry added 22 and the Atlanta Dream won their second straight game with a 76-58 victory over the Washington Mystics on Sunday.

Ivory Latta finished with 12 points and Monique Currie had 10 for Washington (12-14), which ended a three-game winning streak.

The Mystics started fast, taking a 10-point lead on Currie's 3-pointer 2 minutes into in the first, and they didn't trail until Hayes' 3-pointer with 0.5 seconds left in the second quarter made it 38-37.

Atlanta (13-9) led the rest of the game to win its eighth straight in the series.

Hayes scored 10 points in the second and nine in the third. She added a 3 with 8:14 left in the game to make it 66-48.

''I got a good pass from Angel and I was just able to step in and knock it down,'' Hayes said. ''That gave us some momentum going into the locker room.''

McCoughtry, the WNBA's leading scorer, had nine points and three assists in the third. In a 5-second span on Atlanta's end of the floor early in the quarter, she hit a layup, stole an inbound pass and scored another layup to make it 44-39.

''When we play with that kind of intensity, we raise the bar to another level, so I just wanted to set the tone,'' McCoughtry said. ''It gave us a boost.''

The Dream led by double digits the rest of the afternoon after McCoughtry needed just 8 seconds to finish a three-point play, steal the ball from Crystal Langhorne and hit one of two free throws to make it 51-41.

''We scored almost half our points in the first quarter, and then they jumped in the passing lanes and we accommodated by turning it over,'' Mystics coach Mike Thibault said. ''They became more aggressive and we didn't match it.

Le'Coe Willingham finished with eight points and Erika de Souza eight rebounds for the Dream, who have a league-best 10-1 record at home.

Langhorne added points and nine rebounds for Washington.

After ending the first quarter with a 28-21 lead, the Mystics allowed Atlanta to start stepping in their passing lanes and disrupting their offense.

''In the first half, we were an amazing team,'' Latta said. ''In the second half, I don't even know what happened. I can't really explain it. We just have to go home and correct the things that we didn't do and focus on what we did well in the first half.''

Atlanta won by double digits for the 12th time this year.

Hayes, who last scored 23 points on July 7, 2012, at Phoenix, has played four games since undergoing left knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus, and her return has helped stabilize the bench.

In her first 14 games, Atlanta's reserves averaged nearly 24 points per game. But over the next seven games without Hayes, the bench averaged nearly 10 points less, and the team went 1-6 over that span.

Hayes said her knee is far from 100 percent. She had it wrapped in ice after the game, but insisted that the soreness is manageable when she's on the floor.

''It's still getting better,'' Hayes said. ''There's never any hesitation. I'm the worst at hesitation, but it felt good so I was just having a good game.''

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