ATLANTA — Alex Bentley came off the bench to score 21 points and the Atlanta Dream evened their WNBA semifinal playoff series against Washington with a 78-75 victory Tuesday night, but the game was marred in the closing minutes when Mystics star Elena Delle Donne went down with what appeared to be a serious knee injury.
Delle Donne had another huge game with 27 points, 14 rebounds, six assists, two blocks and a steal, giving the Mystics a chance to take control of the best-of-five series with their second straight road win.
Then, with just over 3 minutes remaining and Washington clinging to a 70-68 lead, Delle Donne stumbled on a drive to the basket and collapsed to the court, clutching her left knee .
The entire Mystics team raced to her side at the opposite end of the court, some turning away in dismay when they saw Delle Donne writing on the court in pain.
Washington coach Mike Thibault said he wasn't sure about the seriousness of the injury, but a pained expression revealed his concern.
"It's an emotional time," he said. "We don't know what Elena's status is going to be. Obviously, she's a huge factor in what we do."
The injury may deprive the series of two of its biggest stars. The Dream already was missing its longtime leader, Angel McCoughtry, who went down late in the season with a knee injury and cheered on her teammates from the bench.
The teams head to Washington for Game 3 on Friday night.
Dream coach Nicki Collen said she's expecting Delle Donne to be back on the court unless she hears otherwise.
"I wouldn't count her out," Collen said. "She seemed to be walking around fine after the game."
After Delle Donne's injury, Washington struggled to create offensive chances down the stretch. A traveling call gave the ball to Atlanta, which went ahead for good, 76-74, on Elizabeth Williams layup off an inbounds pass. Ariel Atkins missed a 3-pointer, Washington turned it over again and Kristi Toliver's long 3 at buzzer bounced off the rim, allowing the Dream to hold on.
Bentley provided a spark off the bench, especially after Brittney Sykes went to the bench with four fouls early in the third quarter and the Mystics pushed out to a 10-point lead, the biggest for either team. Bentley hit 8 of 14 shots, one of them on a flailing drive that really got the Dream fired up.
The Mystics trailed almost the entire opening half, finally claiming their first lead on Delle Donne's pull-up jumper with 2:54 left in the second quarter. Washington went to the break with a 36-34 lead. ... Tiffany Hayes scored 17 points for the Dream, while Williams and Jessica Breland added 10 apiece. ... Toliver finished with 16 points but went only 1 of 5 from 3-point range. The Mystics finished 6 of 20 beyond the arc. ... The Dream turned it over 16 times — including five by Bentley.
MAKE ROOM IN THE TROPHY CASE
Collen picked up another coach of the year award.
The WNBA recognized her as its top coach for 2018, adding to the honor she picked up last week from The Associated Press after leading the Dream to a franchise-record 23 wins during the regular season.
Collen wasn't the only member of Atlanta's leadership team to be honored Tuesday. First-year general manager Chris Sienko was selected as the WNBA's executive of the year.
Collen is the second Dream coach to receive the league's coach of the year award. Marynell Meadors claimed the honor in 2009.