The New York Liberty find themselves clinging to a postseason spot after winning the opener of their home-and-home series against the Atlanta Dream.
The Liberty (15-20) can punch their ticket to the playoffs for the second straight year and knock out the Dream (14-21) on Sunday afternoon when the teams conclude their regular-season schedules in Brooklyn.
In-season acquisition Crystal Dangerfield scored a season-high 18 points to lift the Liberty to an 80-70 victory over Atlanta on Friday in College Park, Ga. The 2020 WNBA Rookie of the Year had played just seven minutes in New York's 91-73 win over the Dallas Wings on Wednesday.
"She did everything right for us," Liberty coach Sandy Brondello said. "I just told her to be aggressive because we knew they'll put pressure on (Sabrina Ionescu) and we needed the other handler in there to be aggressive. She made a lot of the pull-up shots that she loves. I just told her to play your game, be aggressive, don't be passive and looking for others. She was obviously fantastic."
New York's Betnijah Laney scored a season-high 17 points in her first start since returning from a knee injury.
Natasha Howard collected 14 points and 12 rebounds to record her 10th double-double of the season. She had 19 and 10, respectively, in the Liberty's 89-77 victory over the Dream on June 24.
While New York has won five of its past seven games, Atlanta has lost three in a row and seven of its past nine contests.
Erica Wheeler followed up her season-high 17-point performance in the Dream's 97-90 setback to the Las Vegas Aces on Tuesday with 16 points versus the Liberty. She made 13 of 27 shots in those two games after making just 18 of 63 over her previous eight contests.
Atlanta played Friday's game without Tiffany Hayes, who averages a team-leading 16.2 points per game. She is overseas playing in a 3-on-3 professional tournament in Turkey.
"I was aware it was a possibility, but I didn't know until recently it was actually happening," Dream coach Tanisha Wright told TheNextHoops.com. "I respect (her) decision to make that choice. ... I'm hoping that we can win one more game and she can make it back for playoffs and help us win a (playoff) series."
--Field Level Media