Dream struggles in Game One semifinal loss against Mystics

Jim O'Connor-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Dream set a franchise low in shooting (26.7 percent) in a Game One Eastern Conference Semifinals loss against Washington, losing 71-56. Game Two will take place in Washington on Saturday.

(ATLANTA) – The second half of the Dream’s season has been one they’d like to forget, with a 10-1 start cooling off to a .500 finish. With Washington visiting for Game One of the Eastern Conference Semifinals, Atlanta had the chance to wipe the slate clean, but the Dream’s woes continued with a record-low shooting night leading to a 71-56 loss.

“Everybody is mad,’ Atlanta dream point guard Jasmine Thomas said. “To have home court advantage, which we worked so hard for, and to come out and play the first game like that is disappointing, but we still very much want to win. So everyone is ready to go to practice tomorrow and turn it around. You have to have a sense of urgency from the jump.”

“I felt for the most part our defense was really good and we rebounded the ball well,” Mystics head coach Mike Thibault said. “We turned it over early, but we took better care of it as the game went on. The rebounding made a huge difference between [Crstyal] Langhorne, [Kia] Vaughn and [Michelle]Snow. So we’ll take it being 1-0 on the road, feels great.”

Atlanta shot 26.7 percent (20-for-75), a franchise low in either the playoffs or the regular season. The Dream’s 56 points tied the franchise record for lowest output. Atlanta faces Washington on the road for Game Two, and the Dream are a 4-13 team on the road this season.

It would be a long night for Dream center Erika de Souza. Cold shooting by de Souza gave Washington forward Crystal Langhorne the chance to win the battle of the rebounds and spark an early 8-0 run to put Washington ahead 8-4. The Mystics win at the boards – Langhorne had six rebounds in the first ten minutes - and uncharacteristically poor shooting from Atlanta put Washington up 16-12 after the first quarter.

De Souza would finish the game with 2-for-12 shooting. “Plays went into her in the paint and they just didn’t go down for her,” Atlanta head coach Fred Williams said. “It was bad shooting there for her and she knows that and she knows what to do to make those adjustments for the next game. You can’t ask for better shots, sometimes they just roll off the rim and it was one of those nights for her.”

Jasmine Thomas managed to keep the Dream alive, taking over the scoring duties for Angel McCoughtry (1-for-7 in the first half) and de Souza (1-for-8 in the first half). Despite Thomas’s 10 first half points, the Mystics always had someone different who could step up. In the second quarter, it was rookie guard Tierra Ruffin-Pratt, scoring six points as Washington went into halftime with a 31-24 lead despite an 0-8 shooting performance from 3-point range.

It was the third quarter where the Mystics closed the doors on the Dream, with a 13-0 run in mid-quarter that extended Washington’s lead from eight points to 21. Langhorne would score 10 points during the third quarter, with six of them coming during the run. McCoughtry broke out of her scoring slump by scoring seven third quarter points but at the end of the third, Washington led 57-37 and had the game well in hand.

Atlanta won the final quarter - McCoughty scored another nine points – but it was too little too late. The game was not merely a loss, but a lost opportunity, as Atlanta lost its home field advantage and now faced Game Two on the road in Washington – and the Dream are 4-13 on the road this season.

What was the secret to stopping Angel McCoughtry? “l I think the biggest thing is to make her work hard,” Thibault said. “Even when she went on her run, she did a little bit atypically in the sense that she struggled for the most part during the year making threes. And she shot those back-to-back threes, which I thought gave her some confidence. But we would prefer her to do that as oppose to her getting layups and getting to the free throw line. I think we did a good job for the most part in not fouling her, and playing with our hands straight up, causing her to make tough shots.”

Crystal Langhorne scored 12 points and 15 rebounds for Washington. Four of Washington’s starters would score in double figures, with point guard Ivory Latta leading all scorers with 14 points and seven assists. Center Kia Vaughn scored 12 points and forward Monique Currie scored 10 points and five assists.

Atlanta’s Angel McCoughtry led all scorers with 20 points on 6-for-20 shooting. Erika de Souza has 7 points and 12 rebounds. Jasmine Thomas did not score in the second half and finished with 10 points, and Dream guard Tiffany Hayes had 11 points and nine rebounds.

NOTES

* This is Atlanta’s second under-30 percent shooting game this year. The previous record for low shooting was set against Chicago on August 24, 2013 where the Dream shot 28.6 percent in a 67-56 home loss.

* The Dream have scored 56 points in three games in its history – twice this year (against Chicago and Washington) and against Los Angeles on May 25, 2008. All three losses were home losses.

* Atlanta’s Angel McCoughtry was awarded the Peak Performer Award, awarded to the WNBA regular-season scoring leader. She averaged 21.5 ppg and was presented the award before the game by Renee Brown, WNBA Chief of Basketball Operations.

*Atlanta’s losing streak extends to five games.

* The Dream are 1-1 at the Verizon Center in Washington this season, where they will play Game Two on Saturday. The win was on June 2 with forward Sancho Lyttle (foot injury) scoring 12 points and nine rebounds.

Fred Williams on what to take into the next game: “You look at the little intangibles of loose balls and rebounding, they won a lot of those situations. We are going to look at some film, break it down, and get back after it. Washington played hard, they did what they needed to do and we just tried to play catch up ball the rest of the way.”

Jasmine Thomas on the Dream’s defense: “A lot of it, they were hitting shots from the outside. Their posts were hitting shots, a lot of attention is put on Latta and she was finding her open post players and they were knocking them down.”

Ivory Latta on Washington’s defense: “We played great defense tonight. It was stretches when we felt like an unbelievable team. I just know we had to protect the paint and that was our main thing. We definitely tried to apply a lot of pressure on Angel and make everyone take tough shots, and make sure we got the rebounds. Langhorne had an outstanding game with rebounds. Also, we pride on our defense a lot. Communication is a big key to defense. So I know whenever our defense is on like that then our offense will be great.”

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