WASHINGTON — Tiffany Hayes had 23 points and 11 rebounds, and the Atlanta Dream beat the Washington Mystics, 81-76, on Friday night, taking a two-games-to-one lead in the best-of-five W.N.B.A. semifinal series.
Washington played without the injured All-Star Elena Delle Donne.
Brittney Sykes scored 17 points for the Dream, and Elizabeth Williams had 14. Atlanta is one victory away from its fourth finals appearance and its first since 2013.
The lead changed 14 times through three quarters but never in the fourth. Sykes’s third 3-pointer of the game gave the Dream their largest lead at 77-66 with 2 minutes 38 seconds left. Washington scored the next 6 points and trailed by 79-74 with 35.7 seconds remaining but got no closer.
Delle Donne sustained a bone bruise on her left knee in the closing minutes of Tuesday’s 78-75 Game 2 loss at Atlanta. Washington’s offense labored without its leading scorer. The Mystics shot 36 percent from the field and 5 of 23 on 3-point attempts.
Atlanta entered the final period leading, 56-54, and extended the lead to 66-58 on Sykes’s 3-pointer with 7:15 remaining.
Kristi Toliver, who joined Delle Donne in the 2018 All-Star game, had 7 points on 3-of-15 shooting and missed eight of nine 3-point attempts. Her backcourt partner, Natasha Cloud, scored 3 points.
Aerial Powers came off the bench to lead Washington with a season-high 18 points. Ariel Atkins scored 17 points.
Delle Donne’s absence meant both teams were without their best players. The Dream closed out the regular season without the All-Star forward Angel McCoughtry, who sustained a knee injury Aug. 7 against Las Vegas.
Atlanta led by 37-34 at halftime and extended the lead to 48-38 in the third quarter before Washington rallied with a 12-1 run. Toliver hit her first 3-pointer in that second-half stretch after starting 0 for 7 and 1 of 11 over all.
Delle Donne dressed for the game and sat on the bench. She did not walk with a discernible limp but was deliberate with her gait going to and from the locker room.
Game 4 is set for Sunday in Washington. Tip time depends on the outcome of Friday’s Game 3 in the other semifinal series between Seattle and Phoenix.