Atlanta got its fast-break attack going and ran away from Washington for an 86-73 victory on Saturday at Philips Arena.
Sancho Lyttle led the Dream with 18 points. Angel McCoughtry and Tiffany Hayes scored 16 each, Erika de Souza added 12 and Shoni Schimmel 11. The Dream missed 17 of their 22 3-pointers and 10 of their 21 free throws, but outscored Washington in the paint by 16 points, many on fast-break opportunities in the second half.
Atop the Eastern Conference by 3 1/2 games entering Saturday, the Dream (12-5) have won nine of their past 11 games and improved to 3-0 against Washington (7-12) this season. The Dream will host Connecticut on Tuesday.
Washington closed to within five points midway through the fourth quarter, but the Dream answered with an 11-2 run to seal the win.
“We really were trying to focus on putting 40 minutes together, not to have a big lull and let teams come back,” said Atlanta assistant coach Karleen Thompson, who spoke with the media after the game because coach Michael Cooper wasn’t feeling well. “We played great defense and everyone contributed well.”
The Dream started as if they were going to blow out Washington, taking a 12-4 lead in the opening minutes. But the Mystics fought back.
Despite the Dream being outrebounded by three and missing five of their 12 free throws, the score was tied 40-40 at the half. The Dream played the final 5:34 of the half without leading scorer McCoughtry, who left after colliding with teammate Celine Dumerc. McCoughtry didn’t warm up in the second half with the rest of the team, but started the third quarter. She said the wind was knocked out of her.
The league’s two-time defending scoring champ didn’t seem affected, making a 3-pointer for the Dream’s first points of the second half. She followed with a steal and layup to give the Dream a 45-42 lead as their running game started to get into gear.
Looking focused, McCoughtry followed with a short jumper, and de Souza buried another to give the Dream a 49-46 lead. McCoughtry hit de Souza for a layup before Washington answered with a 3-pointer to tie the score at 51-51.
The Dream closed the period with an 8-0 run, capped by a running 3-pointer by Schimmel at the buzzer, to take a 66-57 lead. They shut down Washington’s inside game in the period, outscoring the Mystics in the free-throw lane 12-4.
“Atlanta has a history of upping their pressure as the game goes along and a lot of teams don’t adjust to it,” Washington coach Mike Thibault said. “Some teams handle it better than others. Right now, we aren’t handling it real well.”
The Dream stretched their lead to 81-76 with 2:30 left in the fourth quarter on a layup by Hayes from a long fast-break pass by Schimmel, and another short jumper by Lyttle.
“We run so much and other teams can not keep up with us,” Lyttle said. “We run, run run and when we are tired we run some more. I think that is what happened tonight, because we played harder on defense in the fourth quarter.”
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