The Atlanta Dream played their last regular season WNBA home game on Sunday afternoon at Philips Arena. Both the Dream and the visiting Phoenix Mercury had locked up playoff places in their respective divisions so you might think that it would be a relaxed, open entertaining game for the 9,740 fans in attendance for Fan Appreciation Day.
It was anything but! The Phoenix Mercury ran out 79-71 winners while the game had all the intensity of a deciding game in the playoffs.
The Mercury, led by Diana Taurasi, out-hustled, out-shot and out-rebounded the Dream who were never in the game. The Dream had their last lead with 7:38 left in the first period.
The Mercury ran their lead up to 19 points in the second quarter and kept it there through the third quarter when the Dream finally started clawing their way back into the game with some intense defense. But in the end it was their shooting that let the Dream down. Overall they shot just 32% from the field while the Mercury were at 49% for the night.
Mercury guard Diana Taurasi wanted her team to be intense. "It's not necessarily the best team over the summer, but the team that gets hot at the right time,' she said. "Today was a little step for us to go forward.''
Taurasi led by example with 25 points. Mercury head coach Russ Pennell said. "We want her to be a little more aggressive offensively, and I think she did that tonight."
The former UConn guard was not the only intense player on the Mercury team. There were also great contributions from three other starters; Candice Dupree added 15 points, DeWanna Bonner had 12 points, while rookie Brittney Griner added 13 points and 11 rebounds.
Taurasi was not the only aggressive player on the Mercury team either. Brittney Griner got into an altercation with Erika de Souza in the third quarter and had to be separated by officials and teammates.
Griner was assessed a technical foul, but downplayed it afterwards. "It was just the heat of the game,' Griner said. 'It's over."
The Dream were led by Angel McCoughtry with 25 points and she was supported by Erika de Souza who got her seventeenth double double on the season with 12 points and 10 rebounds. Tiffany Hayes came off the bench to add 19 points to the cause.
Up next for the Dream is a three game road trip to finish out the regular season starting with a match up against Connecticut on Wednesday night. The Phoenix Mercury play Tuesday in New York.