UNCASVILLE, Conn. -- The Atlanta Dream appeared to be in trouble when leading scorer Angel McCoughtry headed to the bench with her fifth foul with 9:10 remaining Friday night.
It turns out McCoughtry's teammates were ready to pick up the slack.
Lindsey Harding scored 10 of her 21 points in the fourth quarter and the Dream rallied to beat the Connecticut Sun 89-84 in Game 1 of their playoff series.
McCoughtry finished with 16 points despite missing most of the final period. Erika DeSouza and Armintie Price scored 14 apiece for Atlanta, and Sancho Lyttle had 13 points and 11 rebounds.
"When I saw (McCoughtry) get that fifth foul, I was like, 'Oh, jeez, people are going to have to step up and score and also get these stops,'" Harding said. "And we were able to do that."
Renee Montgomery and Asjha Jones had 16 points apiece for Connecticut.
Game 2 of the best-of-three Eastern Conference semifinals is Sunday in Atlanta.
Connecticut led 68-63 when McCoughtry was whistled for her fifth foul. But Iziane Castro Marques made a pair of 3-pointers to help fuel an 11-4 run.
McCoughtry didn't return until the final minute.
"They were probably better off with Angel on the bench in foul trouble because then they had to get their entire team involved and they got shots from everybody," Jones said. "Their points were distributed pretty evenly throughout the team. That made it tough on us. They were rotating and getting open shots, or they were getting out on the fast break and getting good looks at the basket."
Atlanta made 27 of 33 free throws, including 12 for 15 in the fourth period. It also forced eight of the Sun's 14 turnovers in the fourth quarter.
"Angel said, 'Coach they're doing good without me, don't put me back in,'" Atlanta coach Marynell Meadors said. "She's all about winning. Every game with Atlanta and Connecticut are grind it out. I give a lot of credit to Connecticut. They put a defense on us that caused us some issues. But we played and persevered."
Atlanta held Connecticut leading scorer Tina Charles to 12 points and outrebounded the Sun 46-29.
"They were a little more physical than we were. They understood you can do that in the playoffs," Sun coach Mike Thibault said. "Some things are called and some things aren't. They know the difference."
Atlanta missed 11 of its first 13 shots and trailed by as many as eight in the first half, 39-31. But the Dream closed the first half with an 8-2 run to get within two at the break.
"At this point in the year, you have to have short memory, so your only focus is on what happens next. For us, we're in a must-win situation and that's the only thing that we are focused on," Sun guard Kara Lawson said. "We have to try to figure out how we can go down there and get a win."