The Sports Inquirer attended the postgame presser of the Washington Mystics featuring head coach Mike Thibault along with players Natasha Cloud (9) and Elena Delle Donne (11). Delle Donne had a game-high 32 points and 13 points for a double-double while Cloud scored 13 points with six assists. Topics included thoughts on the win, hitting 11 three-pointers as a team, converting free throw attempts and preserving energy in a playoff series.
By E. Marcel Pourtout, Editor
Atlanta 74, Chicago 73
Behind a game-winning shot at the buzzer by Angel McCoughtry, the Atlanta Dream snapped its two-game losing streak with a 74-73 home win over the defending Eastern Conference champions the Chicago Sky at Philips Arena on Friday night.
McCoughtry scored a team-high 18 points for the Dream while Erika de Souza had 13 points along with a game-high 11 rebounds for a double-double. Ronneka Hodges (12 points) and Cierra Burdick (11 points) also scored in double-figures for the Dream.
Elena Delle Donne scored a game-high 26 points for the Sky and grabbed a team-high 10 rebounds for a double-double. Courtney Vandersloot had 18 points for Chicago while Cappie Poindexter scored 13.
-Atlanta jumped out to a 10-4 lead, holding Chicago to 1-9 shooting for 11 percent.
-After the first quarter, the Dream led 21-13. Atlanta shot 47 percent from the field while holding Chicago to 25 percent. The Sky also had nine turnovers. Delle Donne had four points for Chicago while McCoughtry scored nine.
-Atlanta held a 37-36 lead at halftime. The Dream shot 40 percent from the field, led by 10 points each from McCoughtry and Rodges. Atlanta made only one out of six three-pointer attempts but hit on eight of 12 free-throw attempts.
-Chicago shot 26.7 percent in the first half with Delle Donne scoring a game-high 12 points. Vandersloot had 10 points. The Sky struggled from the field but hit all 17 free-throw attempts.
New York 73, Atlanta 64
Atlanta followed up the Chicago game with a 73-64 home defeat to the New York Liberty on Sunday afternoon.
Angel McCounghtry had a team-high 17 points for the Dream while Roneeka Hodges (12 points) and Sancho Lyttle (11 points) also scored in double figures. Atlanta shot a season-low 29.7 percent from the field.
New York got a game-high 18 points off the bench from Brittany Boyd while stater Sugar Rodgers had 17. Tina Charles notched a double-double with 13 points and a game-high 12 rebounds.
The Liberty outscored the Dream for points in the paint 36-14.
-Atlanta trailed by the score of 21-10 at the end of the first quarter. The Dream struggled from the field, shooting only 23.5 percent in the first quarter while the Liberty shot 47.4 percent.
-New York took a 40-28 lead into the locker room behind a game-high 10 points from Carolyn Swords off the bench. The Liberty shot 48.5 percent from the field in the first half.
-The Dream shot 25 percnt from the field in the first half and missed all seven three-point field goal attempts. McCoughtry scored a team-high nine points.
-There were five technical fouls called in the first half including two on New York’s Tanisha Wright who was ejected from the contest.
-New York outscored Atlanta 28-8 for points in the paint in the first half.
-Atlanta finished the third quarter on a 9-2 run and trailed New York 55-41 heading into the fourth quarter.
By E. Marcel Pourtout, Editor
Heading into the fourth quarter with a 16-point lead on its home court, Atlanta looked poised to win its decisive Game Three contest against Chicago and advance to the WNBA Eastern Conference Finals to meet Indiana. However, the Dream’s hopes for postseason glory were deferred as the Sky escaped with an 81-80 victory, ending Atlanta’s season.
“We had them on the ropes for three quarters of the game,” Atlanta coach Michael Cooper said. “We went away from what we did well and our execution went out the window by taking quick and bad shots. Our defense got away from us as well.”
Atlanta was outscored 30-13 in the fourth quarter with Chicago’s Elena Delle Donne scoring 17 of her game-high 34 points during the frame.
“We weren’t ready to go home,” Delle Donne said. “I knew that we were playing good defense but not doing the little things. The team trusted me and put the ball in my hands in the fourth quarter.”
The Dream took a 67-51 lead heading into the fourth quarter. Chicago began its comeback, going on a 7-0 run, cutting the deficit to 72-62 with 6:56 left in the game. After an Erika DeSouza layup for Atlanta, the Sky went on another 7-0 run, culminating with a Epiphanny Prince layup with 4:28 to go, making the score 74-69.
“Atlanta owned us for much of the game,” Chicago coach Pokey Chatman said. “We stayed the course and when it was time our big time players stepped up. We trusted the process.”
Atlanta called a timeout but the momentum shift was in full tilt and a three-pointer by Delle Donne from the right side tied the score at 74-74 with 3:26 left in the game.
The Dream looked ready to secure the game when consecutive baskets by DeSouza and Angel McCoughtry gave Atlanta the lead again, 78-74 with 2:14 left. DeSouza finished the game with a team-high 18 points while McCoughtry had 17.
Trailing 80-77, Delle Donne hit a bank shot on the left side, cutting the lead back to one point with 29.5 seconds left.
Atlanta’s Jasmine Thomas went to the line with 17.3 seconds left but missed both free throw attempts, opening the opportunity for Chicago to take the lead which it did. Delle Donne hit another running bank shot on the left side with 16.2 second to go, giving the Sky its final lead of the contest.
Atlanta had one final opportunity to win the game but a shot by McCoughtry rimmed out at the buzzer to end the season.
The Dream started the game strong in the first quarter, shooting 56.3 percent from the floor and taking a 30-17 lead.
Both teams scored 24 points in the second quarter, allowing the Dream to take a 54-41 lead into halftime. Atlanta had three players score in double-figures in the first half, led by Sancho Lyttle’s 14 points. She finished the game with a team-high 13 rebounds as well. McCoughtry had 12 first-half points while Thomas scored 11. Overall, the Dream shot 54.5 percent from the floor in the half.
Chicago was led by Delle Donne’s 15 first-half points. The Sky struggled from the floor, hitting only 41.7 percent of its shots through the first two quarters.
Atlanta also converted 15 of 17 free throw attempts in the first half while the Sky only attempted 11 in total, making nine.
“We’ll come back bigger and stronger next year,” Cooper said. “Our goal is still to win a championship. We will go a lot further because we understand what it takes to get past the first hurdle. We limped into the playoffs.”