The Atlanta Dream lost to the Washington Mystics Thursday night in the WNBA’s Eastern Conference semifinal 71-56 to lose home-court advantage for the short three game series. On paper the game was supposed to be close Washington and Atlanta both ended the season with identical records, 17-17, they split the regular season head-to-head 3 to 2 but Thursday night at Philips Arena it was anything but close.
The Mystics out-hustled and out-played the Dream who never looked like they were up for the fight. The Mystics led by as many as 23 and ended up running out winning by 15.
The key to seeing how this game was to go was to look at recent form. Atlanta came into the game on the back of a four-game losing streak. By contrast the Washington Mystics had won three straight. This game proved to be just a continuation of that form and for Atlanta a continuation of the problems they’ve had in the second half of the season.
Plagued by injuries the Dream have had to rely on Angel McCoughtry and Erika de Souza and if they have difficulty the bench is not so deep as to keep the Dream in the game.
Thursday night that was the problem, Angel McCoughtry went one of seven in the first half and de Souza went one of eight. Only Jasmine Thomas provided any respectability to the Dream with 10 points before halftime.
Down by seven at the end of the first half, Atlanta's 24 points were the fewest it had scored in any half all season.
Recognizing the limited depth of the bench, coach Williams left his starters out on court longer during the first half that, in turn, led to problems in the second half with tiredness.
McCoughtry’s shooting improved in the second half but not by much! Overall she went 6 for 20. Her night ended with 5:50 left in the game as coach Williams decided the game was lost and she should conserve her energy for the second game. De Souza joined McCoughtry with 3:47 left in the game.
“It's not about who's more talented,'' McCoughtry said. “It's not about who has this and that - just the heart. Heart will win you anything. We've just got to want it more than our opponent, and they got every loose ball, they got every rebound. They just wanted it more today.”
All night long the Dream looked slow and lethargic compared to the Mystics who were fired up for the game. The Mystics defended very solidly holding Atlanta to 56 points and 26.7% shooting, the Dream’s lowest shooting percentage ever!
“We played great defense tonight,'' Mystics Guard, Ivory Latta said. ‘It was stretches when we felt like an unbelievable team. I just know we had to protect the paint, and that was our main thing. We definitely tried to apply a lot of pressure on Angel and make everyone take tough shots and make sure we got the rebounds.”
The Mystics outrebounded and outshot the Dream to win its first playoff game since 2004.
Led by Ivory Latta with 14 points the Dream had four starters in double figures and a bench that contributed 20 points. By contrast Atlanta’s bench added just six points.
Game two is in Washington DC Saturday night.