There are some days when it almost doesn't pay to get up.
Sometime you're not in the best of shape. Sometimes circumstances just don't seem to roll your way. Sometimes the help you're looking for just isn't available. The Atlanta Dream can use any of those excuses - or all of them - to explain the 85-75 loss to the New York Liberty at home on Tuesday night in a game where the New York Liberty hit 11 3-point shots.
"It wasn’t our best performance," Atlanta guard Armintie Price said. "We didn’t rebound the ball like we needed to and we didn’t guard the 3-point line. In this league, people are too good for us to let anyone get those types of shots and those easy rebounds. We’ve got to regroup and know that Seattle is coming on Sunday and we have to find a way to fix it."
"We had two [Liberty] guards that out-rebounded all of our post players," Atlanta head coach Marynell Meadors said. "I think Armintie and Angel [McCoughtry] had eight rebounds apiece, and our posts didn't have that."
Once again, guard/forward Angel McCoughtry did not get the start for Atlanta. The game started out with both teams looking sluggish and the Liberty firing away from long range. New York guard/forward Nicole Powell had two early 3-pointers as her team went 3-for-6 from beyond the arc in the first quarter and the Liberty led for the early part of the game.
With 2:48 left in the first quarter, McCoughtry came off the bench and tried to make up for the first seven minutes all by herself, shooting 1-for-4 early in the game. The Dream took the lead on a pair of free throws from forward Sancho Lyttle but a buzzer beating bucket by forward Plenette Pierson would close Atlanta's lead to 20-19 at the end of the quarter.
Either by plan or by consensus, New York decided to shoot from long range and bomb Atlanta off the court. Liberty guard Essence Carson hit a pair of 3-pointers as the Liberty went on a 10-2 run, leading 31-24 with 7:02 left in the second quarter. It looked like Atlanta would struggle on both offense and defense, but McCoughtry reeled off eight straight points to bring Atlanta within three, 39-36. Referee Michael Price’s whistle fed Atlanta with free throw opportunities, but despite Angel McCoughtry’s 13 first-half points the Liberty led 46-40 at halftime.
New York's Plenette Pierson led all players at halftime with 15 points and Nicole Powell had 10 points. Atlanta’s defense gave up 52.8 percent shooting to the visiting Liberty.
Even though McCoughtry led the box score for Atlanta after the first half, the third quarter found her inexplicably on the bench again. New York took full advantage, taking a 53-44 lead off another Liberty 3-pointer from the right wing by Nicole Powell and breaking the double-digit barrier with a 56-46 lead off a follow-up three from Liberty guard Cappie Pondexter.
Same pattern as earlier. McCoughtry was released from the bench and Atlanta made it a game again. With McCoughtry for New York to worry about the Dream closed the gap to 62-59 on a baseline drive by point guard Lindsey Harding with a minute left in the third. The Dream closed it to within two points, 63-61, but a pair of free throws by Liberty rookie forward Alex Montgomery extended New York’s lead to 65-61 after three quarters.
The pattern for the game was well established by now. Rally by Atlanta with McCoughtry on the court; New York shooting the lights out from 3-point land to kill the rally. New York’s sharpshooting was too much to overcome. When New York point guard Leilani Mitchell launched a desperation 3-pointer with 2:23 remaining – and it went in – the Liberty’s tenth 3-pointer of the night exemplified Atlanta’s woes.
Mitchell would be 4-for-6 from 3-point range for the night.
"It was important for her," Cappie Pondexter said. "It helped us keep going. We really haven’t seen her shoot the ball like she did tonight. To see her get going and win the game for us in the fourth quarter was very crucial."
"We have been a good shooting team all year," Liberty head coach John Whisenant said. "We had some games when we don’t have good movement, and when we don’t have good movement that doesn’t equal success. And tonight we had better movement, this is an indication we had good passing, assists and spacing on the floor."
New York would shoot 11-for-19 from 3-point range. The Dream would end the game by collapsing on the bad end of a 10-3 run and missing four of their final five free throw attempts.
"A lot of the threes they hit were on broken plays. We were not quick enough to get to the loose balls," Meadors said regarding the team's 3-point defense. "If we're not going to get those loose balls, then we're not going to be successful."
Angel McCoughtry would lead all players with 24 points on 8-for-18 shooting, hitting eight of 12 free throw attempts. Lindsey Harding had 14 points and nine assists for Atlanta and Erika de Souza contributed 11 points.
Plenette Pierson led New York with 20 points and eight rebounds. Four of five Liberty starters hit double-digits, including Cappie Pondexter with 16 points and five assists, and Leilani Mitchell with 12 points and six assists. Mitchell was 4-for-6 from behind 3-point range.
* This was the final regular-season game against the Liberty. Atlanta was 2-3 against New York for the season, 1-for-2 at home and 1-1 on the road.
* Even though New York's 11 3-point goals might seem astonishing, it's nowhere close to the record for most 3-pointers made in the game. Three teams have hit 16 3-point shots in a game, the last time on May 25, 2010 when the Phoenix Mercury visited Tulsa. (Guess which team had the 16 3-pointers?)
* New York from 3-point range - 11-for-19. But what about the Dream? They were a nightmarish 0-for-6.
* Why was McCoughtry not starting in the first or third quarter? Meadors said that was a "just a coach's decision" and declined to elaborate.
* Regarding Shalee Lehning: Meadors stated that "she's probably going to be out at least a couple of weeks." According to Meadors, she was hit on the side of the knee and her right kneecap moved. She also stated that the MRI results are not back.
"It seems like when we get one person back and get the whole team together, somebody else gets hurt. And that's the way it's been. We have had two days when we've had all of them on the court at the same time. And it just must be one of those years."