Unfortunately, the drama on the court would provide no solace for the Dream as they lost to Tulsa 84-80 on Tuesday night at Philips Arena.
"That was a good win for us," Shock head coach Gary Kloppenburg said. "That’s our first road win, so we’ve battled all year to get a road win and finally got it."
It was the first road win for Tulsa since August 26, 2011, which was a 77-75 road victory over Los Angeles – a 368 day gap between road wins.
"I felt that the third quarter is what got us," Williams said. "We had some good looks at the basket and we were pretty much one shot and done. They went down the other end and converted on some athletic play."
With Kayla Pedersen out with the flu and Liz Cambage somewhere in Australia, the Dream eschewed rebounding for drives to the basket. Dream forward Sancho Lyttle took full advantage, with a play that resembled something like an alley-oop – Lyttle didn’t dunk but she was there a couple of times with arms outstretched and ready to bank it into the basket. The Dream shot 69 percent from the floor in the first quarter and were bold in attacking the basket, with Lyttle and Dream center Erika de Souza combining for 16 points for Atlanta to take a 29-20 first quarter lead.
The Dream kept the heat up with an 11-0 run in the second quarter that put Tulsa down 47-30 at one point. If the Dream were missing Angel McCoughtry, their team play did not show it. But after the run, the Dream were lulled into complacency with Tulsa guard Riquna Williams scoring five points in the latter minutes of the first half. At the halftime break, the Shock closed to seven points, 51-44.
Guards Roneeka Hodges and Temeka Johnson scored eight points each in the first half for Tulsa. The post duo of Lyttle and de Souza scored 22 points, cooling down from their first quarter performance.
If the Dream expected Tulsa to capitulate, they were in for a surprise as the second half was a very different one from the first. The Shock continued to close the gap and with Atlanta up by one, Shock guard Ivory Latta had the chance to put Tulsa in the lead but missed a pair of free throws with 5:05 left in the quarter. Unfortunately, the Dream would go over the foul limit and send Latta right back to the foul line with 4:48 left where she would hit both to put Tulsa up 56-55, their first lead of the game.
De Souza picked up her fourth foul in the third. Tulsa played Atlanta right out at the perimeter and it seemed to be working as Atlanta seemed to be determined to take long range shots, stymied by Tulsa’s zone. Lyttle finally got a 3-pointer to fall to put the Dream up 62-58, which was answered right back with a 3-pointer from Shock forward Jennifer Lacy. The Dream defense looked uncharacteristically helpless and with Lyttle determined to shoot 3-pointers Tulsa ended the quarter up by five points, 67-62. Atlanta shot 5-for-22 in the third, a big difference from the first half.
"They shot pretty good from the three, 10 for 23, and I think that was pretty much their game plan – to shoot a lot of threes against us in the second half," Williams said. Meanwhile, Atlanta would shoot 6-for-26 from behind the arc during the game.
Tulsa was very happy to have Atlanta play an outside game, and took a 72-64 lead at one point in the fourth. The question was whether or not the Shock would find another way to lose. With Atlanta’s posts in foul trouble, the Dream was down 75-68 with 5:36 left to go. By the last three minutes, both teams were over the foul limit and it looked like the game would be decided at the free throw line.
Instead, the game ended with an exciting play. With the Dream down 82-80 with 6.9 seconds left, the Dream looked to have the last possession. But Sancho Lyttle’s attempt to inbound ended up in the hands of Shock forward Glory Johnson. Temeka Johnson hit the final two free throws with 4.1 seconds left to seal the victory for the visitors.
"We ran a running screen for Lindsey Harding and they switched off on it and Sancho had to turn to get it to Erika and she got jammed on it," Williams said. "They just made a good pressure play on us. We’ve got to get better at that."
Both teams went to the zone defense, almost a battle of the zones.
"We usually don’t use that much matchup [zone], but we felt that if we kept changing it up on them it would put them on a heels a little bit," Kloppenburg said. "I thought they were hesitant a little bit. Once they hit a couple in a row we went out of it and went back to our man."
"We’re just trying to find a way to win a game, so we’re doing everything we can to do that."
Roneeka Hodges led all Shock players with 20 points. Temeka Johnson scored 17 points, and Glory Johnson added 10 points and eight rebounds.
All Dream starters scored in double figures and played at least 30 minutes. Erika de Souza had 16 points and nine rebounds in a losing effort, and Sancho Lyttle had 14 points and nine rebounds. Dream point guard Lindsey Harding would have 10 points and seven assists.
* The announcement that Angel McCoughtry was suspended indefinitely was made by the broadcast announcers.
* The only time McCoughtry was seen during the game was on the video screen at Philips Arena, for the service announcements warning fans not to step on the court or throw things, and during the fourth-quarter rally video.
* The announced attendance for the game was 2,813, the second lowest home attendance in Atlanta Dream history. The lowest home attendance ever was an 80-70 loss to the Chicago Sky on June 4, 2010 where 2,515 fans attended.
* Sancho Lyttle took nine 3-point attempts, going 2-for-9, nearly matching her record for 3-point attempts set in…the previous game against Minnesota (10). "You know Sancho has hit a lot of threes in a lot of games for us," Williams said. "So we’re just trying to make sure she feels comfortable shooting it out there. I know we have to groom her really to go to the basket a lot more. And she knows that. We’ve just got to continue to work on that."
* Gary Kloppenburg on the Cambage situation: "She’ll be back. I just think it’s a situation where it’s the Olympics and I think she’s just overwhelmed with her youth, just trying to get her career started. I think she maybe looked at ten games and said ‘I’m fatigued, and I’m just not going to come back over.’ We’re expecting her to be back in training camp next year."