Atlanta, GA - Maya Moore had a spectacular game in front of her home crowd Friday night at the Philips Arena. Moore scored 35 points in 84-82 defeat against the Dream, after being down by 16 points in the third quarter.
"We've played Atlanta more than any other East Conference team, and we know that they are a team that plays a lot of possessions," Moore stated. "You're never really out of it; there's always time to come back just because it's such a fast-paced game."
Moore was not the only player who put on a phenomenal performance. Atlanta's star Angel McCoughtry scored 32 points and seemed unstoppable in the first half. McCoughtry's efforts gave her team a 16-point lead at the beginning of the third quarter.
"We played a good game the whole game," stated McCoughtry. "We only lost by two points, so it was just two points spared, two extra points that they got instead of us. We're okay, we're just going to keep on playing hard and just keep getting better."
The game kicked off with Dream's guard Shoni Schimmel included in her team's starting lineup for the fourth time this season. Four of Minnesota starters scored in the first quarter which gave them a firm lead on Atlanta throughout the game's opening.
However, McCoughtry played a smart first quarter to keep the Dream trailing close. She attacked the basket early and got the ball in the paint to Sancho Lyttle, who was able to finish some inside buckets over Minnesota's posts. The Lynx led by one at the end of the first.
Atlanta, coming off their first win in the last seven games, was hungry for another victory and to hopefully climb their way up from the trenches of the league. Their last win took place Sunday against the Tulsa Shock, defeating them 98-90.
Tulsa's Riquna Williams was the leading scorer with 35 points, but the Dream pulled off the big win by outrebounding the Shock and shooting 50% from the floor. Atlanta had five players score in double digits Sunday evening compared to the Shock, who had just two.
The Dream came to life in the second quarter, outscoring the Lynx 27 to 17. Shimmel immediately turned up the heat hitting a deep three-pointer in the first few seconds of the quarter, giving the Dream a 21-19 lead. Aggressive plays from Reshanda Gray landed four fouls on Minnesota in just under the eight-minute mark.
Gray also pulled off a three-point play to take Atlanta's lead to four. Minnesota's head coach Cheryl Reeve was forced to call a timeout hoping to stop the Dream's momentum, but McCoughtry continued penetrating the paint every chance she got. She drew fouls inside and shot 9 for 10 from the free-throw line.
Moore was the glue that kept her team together in the second quarter, having a total of 14 points by the first half. However, McCoughtry was the spark that kept the Dream on top; she went into halftime with 16 points and Atlanta up 45-36.
As the second half kicked off, McCoughtry came out and extended their lead to 10, with a corner three-pointer that was just under the eight-minute mark. Moore picked up her third foul at the beginning of the third quarter. But as her defense slowed down, her offense picked up.
Moore continued to fire off shots from the perimeter, giving her 23 points in the third quarter alone. It seemed like the more shots Moore hit, the harder McCoughtry attacked. She hit eight points, including two three-pointers, in less than two minutes.
However, things begin to take a downward turn for the Dream after McCoughtry was taken out the game to rest. The Dream seemed to lose their rhythm and the Lynx slowly began to tighten the deficit, getting it to just four points, after being down by 16 points earlier in the quarter. With help from Moore and Sylvia Fowles, Minnesota went on an 11-3 run in the last 2:43 of the third. Atlanta remained on top 66-62 as the game entered its final quarter.
"The third quarter has been kind of our Achilles heel," Atlanta's head coach Michael Cooper stated. "We were in a good position to win the game, but again when you don't do the right things for 40 minutes, it makes it difficult to defeat a good team like Minnesota."
Moore was able to get her team within two points of Atlanta in the first minutes of the final quarter, and the Dream's shots were just not falling as easily as they did in the first half of the game.
The fourth quarter looked completely different from the rest of the game. The Lynx stayed on the Dream's tail and took the lead after Moore's three-point jumper with 2:19 to play. Atlanta's hopes of defeating the number one team in the West began to shrivel as they came out of a timeout in the last 50 seconds of the game, down by one.
Fowles scored a layup out of the timeout and gave her team a three-point lead with 31 seconds left on the game clock. The clock winded down to 11 seconds and McCoughtry jacked up a 25-foot three-pointer way off the mark and sealed the faith of the Dream.
"We stayed calm and continued to trust in our game plan," Moore stated. "But we had to be more focused and determined to get out defense ready and set and pick them apart on offense."
The Dream stays at home and prepares to face the Connecticut Sun Sunday afternoon. This is their third meeting with Connecticut, in which they are 0-2 against them. And the Lynx go on, with hopes to take their win streak to four, as they face the Washington Mystics in D.C.