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McCoughtry, Atlanta shuts door on Mystics’ playoff dreams

Angel McCoughtry returned from her one-game suspension — and lit up the scoreboard. As for the Mystics, Emma Meesseman and Tayler Hill both did all they could to keep their team’s playoff hopes alive, but those hopes were squelched.

Angel McCoughtry, Atlanta Dream Scott Cunningham - NBA Photos/Getty Images

ATLANTA, GA. – The Atlanta Dream have already clinched a spot in the WNBA playoffs, but the future of the Washington Mystics wasn’t certain. Washington was fighting for the final spot in the playoffs, but Atlanta — with the help of a very motivated Angel McCoughtry — was battling for a better seeding. Atlanta took the game, 94-91.

The first quarter was an uphill battle for Atlanta, which struggled to get its offense going. The Dream regrouped after an early timeout, and that’s when the Mystics realized this matchup wasn’t going to be easy.

By the end of the first, Atlanta was down by two, 28-26, after regaining momentum on offense. McCoughtry was already in the double digits in the first with her 13 points, 31 on the game.

“I wanted to come out and redeem myself,” said McCoughtry, “I felt like I let the team down after we lost to San Antonio.”

The Mystics were in foul trouble in the second, and they were visibly frustrated. That’s where Emma Meesseman came in. She excelled at getting under the net and snagging rebound after rebound.

Tiffany Hayes was impactful in the first half. While eager and not always accurate, Hayes made plays that separate a playoff team from a contender. Hayes helped Atlanta go into halftime with the lead, 52-45.

The game was neck and neck the entire third. Natasha Cloud’s effort stood out, as she did everything she could to keep her team within striking distance. As each team fought for each point, the game was tied 69-69 with less than a minute after Leilani Mitchell evened the field.

Atlanta trailed 76-71 after less than a minute in the fourth. The Dream struggled to contain the Mystics offense that got several shots on just one possession.

Washington was back at the free throw line with 13 seconds left and led 91-90, but Hayes’ layup snuck in with nine seconds left. Washington was within one and Layshia Clarendon was at the free throw line, extending Atlanta’s lead 94-91.

“We’ve got one more game,” said Dream head coach Michael Cooper, “The mentality of playoff basketball is you never want to go into the playoffs off a loss, so we’re going up there to win.”

Atlanta heads to Minnesota next on Saturday, and Washington hosts Connecticut the Sunday in their final game of the regular season.