(ATLANTA) – After playing three of the best teams in the WNBA – Connecticut, Indiana and Minnesota – one could wonder if the Atlanta Dream had anything in the tank when the Washington Mystics came to Philips Arena. Not to worry – Washington could never find the keys to turn the ignition as they lost 93-68 to the Dream, whose victory was never in doubt in front of an announced crowd of 6,898 on Fan Appreciation Day.
"We went over some things we did in the Minnesota game to improve ourselves," Dream head coach Fred Williams said after the win. "That game on the road against Minnesota was a great proving factor for us, where we were and who we are, and we just wanted to play hard and set the tone early."
With the Mystics already having four team fouls before three minutes were up, the Dream took advantage and took a 9-0 run to a 12-4 lead before Washington’s first time out. McCoughtry came off from the bench with 5:28 to go and the Dream moved the ball at will against the Mystics, who turned the ball over eight times in the first quarter. A run of foul trouble for Atlanta near the end of the quarter allowed the Mystics to close to 22-15 by the end of the first ten minutes.
"Our theme is ‘Run with the Dream’ and I think we did that tonight," Atlanta Dream guard Lindsey Harding said. "We got a lot of transition points. Plus, we have been playing at a very high level these past few games even before taking on Minnesota and we just wanted to keep up that same level of high intensity for tonight."
A 3-pointer by guard Shannon Bobbitt closed the Mystics to 22-18 to start the second, but the Dream reeled off the next nine next points. A 3-pointer at the top of the key by forward Cathrine Kraayeveld was an example of a confident Dream passing up the first available shot to set up better shots.
"We saw a lot of combination passes in that first half." Williams said. "Sometimes we over-passed some. But my philosophy is that everybody touch the ball and everybody get a share of scoring and rebounding."
A turnaround jump shot by forward Aneika Henry put Atlanta up 36-20 with 4:36 left in the first half and forced the Mystics to call a time out. The Henry shot was part of a 13-0 late run and the Mystics had no offensive punch whatsoever. Atlanta retired at halftime with a comfortable 48-27 lead.
Washington head coach Trudi Lacey talked about how difficult it was to defend against the Dream.
"Again, I think it was some mental lapses, especially in the first half, just not getting back on defense," Lacey said. "We talk about it as part of our game plan and for whatever reason we didn’t do it. Against a good playoff team like that you obviously can’t make those kind of mistakes."
Hapless Washington shot 27.6 percent in the first half compared to 60.6 percent by the Dream. Dream guard Arminite Price led all players with 11 points. Harding had five points and six assists for the Dream in the first half.
In their previous game against the Lynx the Dream lost a 25 point halftime lead, but there wasn’t much danger of that with the Mystics. The Dream would give up a couple of 3-pointers to Washington guard Jasmine Thomas but Atlanta maintained a double-digit lead. McCoughtry shooting – and hitting – a lay-up from a reclining position when she fell to the floor was a symbol of the Mystics woes. By the end of the third quarter Dream forward/center Erika de Souza had 12 points and 10 rebounds and Atlanta led 68-47.
The fourth quarter’s only question was whether Harding could get a double-double in points and assists. Harding fell short of her goal, replaced with guard Laurie Koehn with 2:51 left, but the Dream had their fourth straight win over the Mystics this year.
"Halftime I told the team that we had 16 assists," Williams said, "and I told the team I wanted to keep building on that, so they kept sharing the basketball."
Harding and Price led the Dream with 15 points each. Harding’s nine assists tied a season high and were one off her career high. For Washington, center Crystal Langhorne and guard Noelle Quinn each scored 12 points.
* This is the first time Angel McCoughtry did not finish in double figures this season. She continues to come off the bench at both the start of the game and to begin the half. She went 4-for-10 over 17 minutes of play, scoring eight points and three rebounds.
* This is Washington’s eighth straight loss. Washington’s last win was an August 19th 75-71 home win over Chicago.
* Brian Agler and Nancy Darsch were at Philips Arena. Most likely, they flew from Tulsa straight to Atlanta and decided to remain in the city until Tuesday night’s game against the Storm. Fred Williams stated that he did not know Agler was in the crowd, but the two will probably have a chance to chat before their game two days from now.
Williams on resting starters to prepare for Tuesday’s night game against Seattle: "I think Lindsey got a little bit more [minutes] than some of the others, but it kind of helps when you’re getting ready to go up against Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson and Camille Little."
Dream forward Sancho Lyttle on the Minnesota game vs. this one. "We came out to play. It kind of felt like we gave up the last game a little bit. We just need and want every win we can get, so we can get into the playoffs securely. Coach told us after the game in Minnesota to let it go and just go out and play, and that is what we did tonight."