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Dream Suffer Second Straight Overtime Home Loss to Start Season

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No one ever confused Crystal Langhorne, Nicky Anosike and Matee Ajavon for LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh. 

But while the men's basketball world was preparing to watch Miami's "Big Three" lose Game Five of the NBA finals, the Washington Mystics dealt a 98-90 overtime defeat to the Atlanta Dream at home, a game where three Washington players appeared to take on the defending Eastern Conference champions single-handedly, with the aforementioned trio scoring 83 of Washington's 98 points. 

Nicky Anosike was one point away from two players having 30-point games for the same team, a feat performed only three times in the WNBA - twice by the high-scoring Phoenix Mercury of Diana Taurasi and Cappie Pondexter.  As post players, Langhorne scored 30 points and 13 rebounds and Anosike scored 29 points and 13 rebounds.

Washington head coach Trudi Lacey was definitely satisfied. 

"I thought that we played with a great deal of intensity," she said. "We didn't get discouraged when we got down.  They played with the heart of a champion.  They played as a team.  And we came out with the win."

Atlanta head coach Marynell Meadors read a statement after the game after the Dream's second straight home overtime loss: "I'm very disappointed in the way that we played.  We got the lead and did the things that we had to do to get the lead, and then all of a sudden we started coasting.  And we started making turnovers, and they capitalized on the turnovers." 

The Dream ended the game with 23 turnovers to the Mystics 29 turnovers.

"I think Washington outworked us," Meadors said.  "There's no question about it.  Even though Erika [de Souza] had a great game, we still gave up a lot of points...and a lot of them if you look at the stat sheet has to be from the free throw line.  I don't know how many 'and ones' we gave them but it was way too many."

The Dream end up sending the Mystics to the free throw line 42 times.  Washington hit 31 of their tries, with Nicky Anosike hitting 13 for 18.

The game, broadcast on ESPN2, was far from a great showcase of women's basketball.  The Dream started out missing its first five field goals and the Mystics started the first quarter with nine turnovers.  Crystal Langhorne was a one-woman scoring machine for the Mystics scoring 12 points in the first quarter alone.  Atlanta led for much of the game, but just as they threatened to sustain a double digit lead, Washington would whittle the Dream's lead down to a basket.  The Dream's offense could not find any rhythm and backup point guard Shalee Lehning - familiar with the Dream's offense - would substitute for starting point guard Lindsey Harding when it was necessary to provide some calming influence. 

"In defense of Lindsey, she's only played two games with us," Meadors said, "and she's trying to figure out what what everybody does, too.  There's not a lot of chemistry on the floor, and until we get whole again with Angel [McCoughtry] back on the floor, we're going to struggle a little bit."

Even when ahead, Atlanta was prone to mistakes and to being out-hustled by their competitors.  Emblematic of the Dream's woes was a play at the end of the second half where Harding, trying to set up a last-second shot as time expired, had her pocket picked by Matee Ajavon with 4.9 seconds left on the clock.  Ajavon converted the steal for two points to close the Mystics to within seven points as the first half ended.   The Mystics were only down by seven despite 17 first-half turnovers.

Atlanta center Erika de Souza shined in the second half on her way to a 20 point, 15 rebound game for the Dream but with both forward Sancho Lyttle and backup post Alison Bales in foul trouble the Dream continued to struggle.  Washington finally caught up with the Dream in the fourth quarter after being behind for most of the game, with Langhorne hitting the follow-up free throw after a foul with 5:04 left in the fourth to tie the score at 80-80. 

Atlanta led 85-82 with 1:59 left on a jumper from Iziane Castro Marques but Washington guard Kelly Miller - Coco Miller's twin sister who wore an Atlanta Dream uniform the year before - hit an open 3-pointer with 1:09 remaining to tie the game again 85-85.

With 13.8 seconds left the Dream had a chance to win the game, but the driving jump shot set up by Lindsey Harding was blocked by forward Kerry Gardin - an emergency acquisition from the day before due to the Mystics falling to an eight-player roster due to injuries.  In the final twelve minutes of the game, Gardin had six steals and Washington led throughout the entire overtime period.  The Dream were outscored 30-20 in the final 15 minutes of the game.

"We just kept fighting," Langhorne said. "We were down pretty much the whole game but when we got to overtime we knew we could win, so we just kept playing hard, kept fighting, and came out with the win."

"Tonight was tough," Atlanta guard Coco Miler said.  "It was a must win game for us before we head on the road.  And unfortunately, we didn't play that well as a team collectively."

Aside from Erika de Souza's double-double, four other Atlanta players finished in double-digits.  Iziane Castro Marques scored 16 points.  Guard Armintie Price scored 12 points for the Dream, Lindsey Harding added 11 points and four assists, and Sancho Lyttle had 10 points and eight rebounds for the Dream. 

Injured forward Angel McCoughtry saw three minutes of play in the first quarter, shooting 1-for-4 and scoring two points.  New acquisition Kelly Mazzante went 0-for-1 missing a three pointer, her only field goal attempt of the game.

NOTES

* Marynell Meadors was very happy with Erika de Souza's play.  "I really think that Erika played a great game.  She finally got back into the rhythm that she's had so many times for this Atlanta Dream, and we worked a lot of one-on-one with her over the last couple of days, and she was ready to play."

* This is the second consecutive game where the Dream gave up over 90 points to an opponent.  The last time the Dream gave up consecutive 90-point games was against the Mystics last year.  They lost their final regular season game to the Mystics 90-81, and then beat the Mystics 95-90 in the opening round of the Eastern Conference semifinals.  Opponents scored back to back 90 point games against the Dream only twice last year with the Dream going 2-2 overall.

* The Dream shot 2-for-11 in overtime.

* Six Duke players are scattered over both rosters.  The Dream's Alison Bales and Lindsey Harding are Duke graduates, as well as Washington's Alana Beard, Karina Christmas, Monique Currie and Jasmine Thomas.  Four of those six players saw time in the game, with Beard and Currie out with injuries.

* Washington came very close to having two players score 30 points.  Only three times in WNBA history have two players from the same team scored 30 points - the greatest such performance was a triple-overtime game between Houston and Phoenix on August 10, 2006 where Tina Thompson scored 37 points and Sheryl Swoopes scored 30 for Houston in a 111-110 home game loss.  Diana Taurasi had the most points scored in a WNBA game with 47 points on 17-for-33 shooting, a record tied by Lauren Jackson of Seattle the following year.

* Angel McCoughtry's prognosis?  "She's feeling good," Meadors said.  "I mean, I'm probably a little bit afraid to put her in because this is just her second day of action full-court and I just want to work her way back in to it a little bit more.  She had a pretty severe injury and it takes a little time for that to heal."