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Dupree's 27 helps Mercury survive Dream

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Candice Dupree scored 27 points, as the Phoenix Mercury were able to stave off the Atlanta Dream. Atlanta is now on a five-game losing streak.

Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Atlanta, GA - Mercury's starting forward Candice Dupree hit 27 points, 14 which came in the first quarter alone, giving Phoenix their third consecutive win. Phoenix defeated Atlanta last month 80-71, in which Dupree and Brittney Griner tied with 22 points. This was the Mercury's 6th straight overall victory over the Dream.

DeWanna Bonner, who had a career-high performance last Tuesday in an overtime defeat against the Chicago Sky, scoring 34 points, ended the matchup with Atlanta with just four points. However, she still helped her team become victorious with ten rebounds and five assists

"Other people were scoring," Bonner stated. "It wasn't my day; I missed a couple of easy shots. But I didn't have to, Candice scored, Monique came out and had a great game, as well as Brittney. So other people scored, and I did other things like rebound and got them the ball."

Angel McCoughtry led Atlanta with 16 points, just three under her overall average, followed by Tiffany Hayes, who scored 13 points. Cierra Burdick, who has started four games this season with the Atlanta Dream and averages 4.4 points a games, did not play due to a fractured foot. She is scheduled to undergo surgery Wednesday and is predicted to be out for 4-6 weeks.

Atlanta ranks 11th in the league in scoring defense allowing an average of 80.1 points per game and 12th in field goal percentage, shooting just 40.4 percent. This worked as an advantage to Phoenix, holding the Dream at just 36.6% from the field.

After going scoreless in the first six minutes of the second quarter, which led to an 18-point deficit, the Dream came within just one point of Phoenix in the last 13 seconds of the game, after McCoughtry and Hayes continued to attack Phoenix's defense. However, the Mercury managed to hold the lead and get to the foul line in the game's last seconds to hold off the Dream.

"Again we're facing some adjustments that we're making obviously after the trade of Ericka," stated Atlanta head coach Michael Cooper. "Dantas and Gray are showing great improvement for us and strides, but it's a team sport. Until we solve our problem as far as scoring and stop having those droughts is when we'll be able to get back on the winning side."

Mercury forward DeWanna Bonner, who raised her shooting average from last season from 10.4 points per game to 18.3, shot 0-4 in the first quarter and was benched the start of the second. Fortunately for Phoenix, Candice Dupree picked up her slack, shooting 100% from the floor in the first and scored 14 of her team's first 20 points.

"That's something we need to do a better job of on players like that," Shoni Schimmel stated. "She had 14 points in the first quarter. So for us to control her in the beginning, limit her touches and limit her shots, and make it a little more difficult for her we need to get better, but Candice Dupree is a great player and we need to do a better job next time."

Brittney Griner added fuel to Phoenix's fire in the opening quarter by dominating defensively and repeatedly shutting down Aneika Henry, who was 2-9 from the floor. The Dream still managed to stay close behind, going into the second quarter down by only five points.

The Mercury went on a 13-0 run in the first six minutes of the second quarter, until McCoughtry hit a jumper with 3:49 left in the half. Although Atlanta managed to end their drought, Phoenix did not ease up.

Monique Currie, hitting two 3-pointers, scored eight of her 12 points in the second. The Mercury broke away and extended their lead from just five to 12 at the end of the quarter. Atlanta went into halftime without a single player in the double digits.

However, the Dream came out in the second half and attacked the paint, which led to Griner picking up her fourth foul that kept Atlanta on the line. Six different Dream players put points on the board and outscored Phoenix 22-10 in the third quarter. Shoni Schimmel's 3-pointer with seven seconds left allowed the Dream to tie 53-53 going into the final quarter.

The Mercury again took the lead at the start of the fourth quarter, but the Dream trailed very close behind throughout. Damiris Dantas driving layup got Atlanta within one point of Phoenix and Mercury head coach Sandy Brondello called a 20-second timeout with 34 seconds on the game clock. On the next play, McCoughtry was able to steal the ball from Currie, but then turned it over and Bonner handed it off to point guard Leilani Mitchell.

The Dream was forced to foul, giving Phoenix two free throw points that extended their lead to three. Henry, who had been struggling to score most of the game, made a literal last-second jumper putting them again within one point. McCoughtry fouled to stop the clock with a half-second to play. But, Bonner hit both free throw shots and the Dream were not able to get up a 3-point shot up in time to tie.

"This game is one of momentum, and we just had to get our composure back and just execute a little bit more," stated Coach Brondello. "We had some breakdowns of what we wanted to do, but in the end I'm glad we got them into foul trouble because we got to the foul line."

Phoenix returns home to face the Tulsa Shock with hopes to keep their winning streak going. This will be their second matchup, in which the Shock lost the first 86-55. And Atlanta heads back on the road, where they are 2-8, to face the Indiana Fever.