Dream gain early upper hand over Fever in East Finals

Tiffany Hayes scored 15 of her game-high 23 points in the second half to lead the Atlanta Dream to an 84-79 win over the Indiana Fever in Game 1 of the WNBA Eastern Conference finals.

Angel McCoughtry added 18 points for the Dream, the East's second seed, while Armintie Harrington shot 6-of-9 from the field in a 16-point, seven-rebound effort.

Tamika Catchings finished with 21 points for the defending WNBA champion Fever, who downed top-seeded Chicago in two games in the semifinals to advance to this best-of-three series. Karima Christmas, Erlana Larkins and Shavonte Zellous each had 15 points in the loss, with Larkins pulling down 12 rebounds.

Indiana owned a 56-53 edge in a tightly contested game in which neither team led by more than seven points after Erin Phillips knocked down a 3-pointer with 3:13 left in the third quarter. Hayes answered with a triple on the other end, though, which ignited a 9-0 Atlanta run that put the Dream up 62-56 entering the fourth quarter.

The Dream held a 67-60 advantage with 7 1/2 minutes left, but the Fever fought back with a 10-4 burst and pulled within one on a Christmas layup with 4:39 to go.

Indiana got no closer, however. McCoughtry was fouled while hitting a jumper with 1:07 left, then made the resulting free throw for an 81-75 Atlanta lead. She made two more foul shots in the final seconds to seal the victory.

Game 2 will be held Sunday in Indianapolis.