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Dream down Storm, clinch first playoff berth since 2018

May 25, 2023; Los Angeles, California, USA; Wilson official basketball with WNBA logo goes through the net during the game between the LA Sparks and the Las Vegas Aces at Crypto.com Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Allisha Gray scored 18 points, Cheyenne Parker had 17 and the Atlanta Dream clinched their first playoff berth since 2018 by defeating the Seattle Storm 79-68 on Wednesday night in College Park, Ga.

Monique Billings posted season highs of 15 points and 14 rebounds and Rhyne Howard added 10 points, seven assists and six boards despite an injury scare to hand Atlanta just its second win in six games.

The Dream (18-20) dished out 24 assists on 33 made field goals and outshot the Storm 45.8 percent to 36.1 percent overall, despite making just 3 of 14 3-point attempts.

WNBA scoring leader Jewell Loyd led Seattle (11-27) with 26 points on 8-of-25 shooting from the field and 9-of-10 shooting from the foul line. Sami Whitcomb scored 13 points and Ezi Magbegor had 12 points and eight rebounds for the Storm.

The Dream went up 69-58 when Billings knocked down a baseline jumper with 6:44 to play. Loyd answered with four straight points, but Billings made an acrobatic layup through traffic and drew a foul with 5:51 to go.

Neither team made another field goal until Billings saved a shot from going out of bounds and tossed the ball to Howard for a 3-pointer with 2:55 left, putting the game out of reach.

The Storm broke an early 13-all tie with a 7-0 run punctuated by Whitcomb’s third triple. Whitcomb went 3-for-3 from behind the arc in the first quarter and Seattle led 24-19 after opening 10 minutes.

Danielle Robinson drove to the basket to give Atlanta its first lead at 27-26, but Kia Nurse made a 3-pointer on the Storm’s next trip. Parker tied it at 29 by scoring off an offensive rebound.

Later, Howard made her first field goal of the game on a three-point play to tie the game at 36. That launched a 14-4 Atlanta run over the final 2:59 of the first half. Billings made a driving layup, Iliana Rupert came off the bench to hit Atlanta’s only 3-pointer of the half and Howard scored in transition to help the Dream take a 47-40 lead into the locker room.

Howard rolled her left ankle midway through the third quarter and went back to the locker room but returned before the end of the period. Atlanta maintained a double-digit lead for most of the quarter, and Howard assisted Aari McDonald on a 3-pointer with 24 seconds left to make it 65-52 heading into the fourth.

–Field Level Media

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