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Free throws plague Mystics; Atlanta keeps playoff Dream alive

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The Atlanta Dream are still -- barely -- in the playoff hunt. Even with a record of 13-18, the Dream won't succumb and that was proven today in their win over the Mystics.

Scott Cunningham/NBAE/Getty Images

This Eastern Conference rivalry game had a lot on the line for both teams.  Coming off of a four-game losing streak, Washington needed to get a win today to secure the final spot in the playoffs.  This would, in turn, close the door for the Dream.  Atlanta is also coming off a loss, in which three of their players scored double digits.  They knew today's game was do-or-die for their chance at the playoffs.

Atlanta got off to a quick 7-2 lead early in the first quarter, looking dominant is almost every aspect.  The young Washington team was not be counted out just yet though, as they went on an 11-5 run, closing the lead to seven with under a minute to play in the quarter.

Defensively, the Mystics improved throughout the second quarter.  On the season, they are fourth in field goal percentage defense and third in points allowed.  However, Tiffany Hayes and Angel McCoughtry proved difficult to defend, as they are both quick off of transitions. Washington gained a little momentum after a blocked shot by LaToya Sanders, but were still unable to stop the Dream's offense.  The Mystics went into halftime, trailing by six with a score of 41-35.

The Washington defense struggled again at the beginning of the third quarter, but got a break on a controversial call on the Dream's Lyttle.  In order to pull off the win, the Mystics needed to be the aggressor, which had failed to happen so far in this game.  Atlanta went up 59-47 at the end of the third.

The start of the fourth quarter was sloppy for both teams.  By the time Washington was able to start getting into a rhythm between their offense and defense, it was too late.  They were only down by five with under a minute in regulation.

Ivory Latta had taken control of the Mystics offense at this point, but the task was too much for her to bear alone.  Tiffany Hayes sealed the Dream win by sinking two free throws in the final five seconds.  Atlanta won 73-67, keeping their playoff hopes alive.

Latta stole the show with 22 points, five assists, and two rebounds.  McCoughtry finished the night with 18 points and two rebounds.  Lyttle was not far behind with 16 points, six assists, and ten rebounds.

"This is the best worst season I've ever had," said Angel MCoughtry, regarding her success this year. "It's the best because I've learned how to be a true leader through a lot of adversity, and it's been the worst because, of course, our record. However, a lot of positive has come out of this season."

Atlanta has taken all three games in the series against the Mystics this season.  While they will not be repeating their regular season Eastern Conference title, they still have the opportunity to make the playoffs.  Their final three games include Los Angeles, Indiana, and, to finish the season, at Washington.  Today's win also leaves Coach Cooper one win away from his 200th victory in the WNBA.