The Atlanta Dream open play in the WNBA Playoffs Wednesday night with a first-round matchup against the Seattle Storm. Atlanta finished as the No. 6 seed and will play a one-game elimination as part of the WNBA's new playoff format.
The Dream were dealt a big blow on Tuesday when the league announced that Tiffany Hayes would be suspended for Wednesday's playoff game after picking up her seventh technical foul of the season in Sunday's season finale against the Minnesota Lynx.
Hayes has been a key contributor for the Dream this season averaging a career-best 15 points per game on 44 percent shooting. She averaged 17.5 points in three matcuhups against Seattle this season.
Atlanta and Seattle enter the postseason heading in opposite directions. The Dream dropped three of their final four games to fall from fourth to sixth in the standings. Seattle won five of their last six games to secure the No. 7 seed.
The Storm took two of three meetings between the two teams this season including a 91-82 win at Philips Arena on September 4. Breanna Stewart averaged 24 points per game in the three meetings and Atlanta will have to find a way to slow her down defensively if they hope to advance.
With Hayes sidelined and Sancho Lyttle listed as questionable with a foot injury, even more responsibility falls on the shoulders of Angel McCoughtry who averaged 24 points and six rebounds against the Storm this season. Reshanda Gray is likely to move into the team's starting lineup with Bria Holmes shifting to shooting guard in Hayes' absence. Holmes played well down the stretch and Atlanta will likely need a big contribution from Wednesday night.
Setting a defensive tone early will be key for the the Dream. Playing without Hayes just adds to their offensive struggles so they need to look to run with every opportunity and to try and avoid an early deficit.
Indiana will host Phoenix in the other first round matchup. The two winners will advance to meet either the New York Liberty or the Chicago Sky.
Game Date/Time: Wednesday, September 21, 8 p.m. ET
Location: McCamish Pavillion, Atlanta, Georgia
TV: ESPN News