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Atlanta Dream 76, Tulsa Shock 68 - Welcome to the Angel McCoughtry Show

Angel McCoughtry posted at 2011 league-high 37 points and accounted for nearly half of the Dream's 76 points against Tulsa. (photo by Craig Bennett/<a href="">112575 media</a>)
Angel McCoughtry posted at 2011 league-high 37 points and accounted for nearly half of the Dream's 76 points against Tulsa. (photo by Craig Bennett/112575 media)

In a night of positive Tulsa milestones, Ivory Latta returned to the starting lineup after sitting out for an extended period of time with staph. She picked up her 1,000th career point in the WNBA after swishing a three with 6:35 to play in the 3rd quarter. Latta ended the night with nine points and 1,006 total.

In another positive milestone, Sheryl Swoopes was first recognized by the organization for her place as one of the Top 15 All-Time players. She went on to pull down five rebounds to finish with a career tally of 1,501 boards.

In yet another positive for the Shock, Tiffany Jackson continues on her path of consistency with her third consecutive double-double. Not only get she get a double-double, but Jackson finished with a career-high 17 rebounds to go with her 11 points.

"Really when Coach T took over she just talked to me and told me what she needed from me and I just stepped up to that challenge," Jackson said. "I just try to lead by example."

You'd think the Shock might have beat the visiting Atlanta Dream, right? Alas, no. Tulsa wasn't able to return from the 19-point deficit, though they nearly did. The reason behind the loss was evident from the first Atlanta basket - Tuesday night was the Angel McCoughtry Show.

"What can I say? She's an all-star, she's a national team player, she's an all-caliber player," Tulsa's interim head coach Teresa Edwards said of McCoughtry. "She did what she was supposed to do and she didn't let her team down."

McCoughtry put up a milestone of her own, a 37-point game for a career-high. Not only was it a career-high night for Angel, but also a league-high total on the season. She started out with Atlanta's first five points and finished the first half with a blazing 22 points on 8-of-12 shooting from the field and was 6-of-8 from the line. In the second, her hand cooled as she was only 3-of-10 for the final 20 minutes. Where she was a liability in second half shooting, she was an asset at the line. McCoughtry was 9-of-11 in the second half to finish the game 15-of-19 from the stripe.

"Just been having a lot of fun lately. In the beginning I wasn't doing that mainly because I had an injury and it was nagging. I'm at about 98% and just having fun. I've been going back to my young days," McCoughtry said of her banner game. "Each game we're gaining our confidence a little bit more and we've been getting our chemistry really well. It was a struggle in the beginning because we had a lot of players in-and-out, in-and-out so now we've got most of our players back. The chemistry is coming."

As noted above, it wasn't all bad news for the Shock, who went on a 15-1 run in the 4th quarter to cut the Dream lead to a one-possession game. During the run, McCoughtry was the lone Atlanta scorer, making the back half of one of her many trips to the line. Atlanta committed three turnovers, five fouls and took but one attempt from the floor in over four minutes.

"I know that our defense can create the offense and that's all we did," Edwards said of the fourth quarter. "We played really good defense, created some turnovers, created some open court opportunities for ourselves which we don't get often."

Another positive, also already mentioned, was the play of Jackson. In the past few games, she has markedly improved her hustle and flow. Against the Dream she even did it with a super fat lip. McCoughtry clipped her in the mouth good and even drew Jackson's first foul less than two minutes into the game. The swelling was more than noticeable to the point that Jackson requested (and was denied) not to be on camera for a post-game interview.

"Tiffany to me has been playing like an all-star all season," Edwards said. "She's been putting it up, she's been getting it done. She does it in practice and she brings it to the game. Tiffany works hard. That's the one player I can count on to leave everything on the court.

"I think it's on her heart. She is very serious about her game, she's very serious about trying to come up with some victories for this team. I just don't need her to quit, I need her to keep going in that aspect and I need other players to feed off of her. It's going to rub off, I think it's starting to rub off."

But a loss is a loss for the Shock, so the negatives were most certainly present. Tulsa just can't put the ball in the basket with any regularity at all. The Shock finished with a 35.4 percent shooting night, a marked improvement over the 28.6 percent in the first half. It took Tulsa three minutes to score their first points and the Shock was 3-of-11 in the second quarter.

"It seems like we're still just one of those teams that when we're behind we know how to fight from behind but we haven't figured out how to jump out and be aggressive and intense with our opponents early in the game," Edwards noted of the sluggish start.

Also, one of the most solid rookies in the league, Kayla Pedersen, only managed 13 minutes of playing time due to a bum ankle. Now, the team has a short turnaround, something that Edwards isn't so excited about.

"I think it's bad," Edwards said of the three-game home stretch in five days. "I would like more time to prepare for teams. Fortunately we have played Chicago once and we should be able to adjust to that one pretty quick."

According to Edwards, part of the problem hinges on trust. Trust in the team, trust in the new system, trust in changes both on and off the court.

"It's a growing thing. The kids have to learn how to believe in each other and work together to get each other shots and things of that nature," Edwards said. "It's a process. I'm giving them a lot of information, they're taking a lot and sometimes in that process it's asking a player to be something she's not, to change something that she's believed in for 20-odd years or whatever from playing. So it's a trust issue from me to them as well."

"We just need to start games as well as we finish them," Jackson echoed her coach's sentiments. "Coach T just put in her system. She put in her plays, she put in her defense so we're just a different team. We're not running anything we ran in the past and everything's different."