Having some extra time off is normally beneficial to basketball teams during the playoff run. Not so for the Atlanta Dream on Sunday.
Playing for the first time in a week, the Dream looked sluggish for much of the game and wound up absorbing a 91-82 loss to the Seattle Storm at Philips Arena.
“I thought the last four or five days benefited us from rest purposes, getting Sancho (Lyttle) back and in the development of our defense,” Dream coach Michael Cooper said. “We’re just not a team that does well on a lot of days off.”
Rookie Breanna Stewart and 11-year veteran Sue Bird, both UConn graduates, each scored 23 points to help Seattle break a six-game losing streak in Atlanta and won at Philips Arena for the first time since Aug. 10, 2010.
The Dream trailed by 26 points the second half and was behind 73-49 after three quarters before a spirited fourth-quarter comeback. Atlanta cut the lead to nine points with 3:18 left, but were never able to get any closer.
The loss drops the Dream to 14-14 and into fifth place. Seattle (12-7) moved into the No. 8 and final playoff spot.
“The one thing that (Seattle) brought was energy,” Cooper said. “A lot of people say they aren’t good because don’t have enough depth or don’t have enough talent. But the one thing they have is they come and compete and play hard.”
Stewart, who scored a career-high 38 against the Dream on June 28, totaled 17 points in the first half and added eight rebounds and six assists. Bird fell one point short of her season high, shot 10-for-18 from the floor and had seven assists.
Atlanta’s offense came from Angel McCoughtry, who shot 12-for-17 from the floor and scored a season-high 32 points. It was the most points for McCoughtry since she scored 26 at Connecticut on July 10.
Atlanta also got 20 points from Tiffany Hayes, but received only 14 points from its bench.
The return of forward Lyttle didn’t help much. She had missed five games with a bruise in her fifth metatarsal, an injury originally believed to be a fracture. The 11-year veteran from Houston didn’t score her first points until the third quarter. She finished with eight points and three rebounds and received a “C” grade from Cooper.
Stewart had 17 points at the half, scoring on a variety of short jumpers and moves to the basket. She even acted as a human shield on the fast break to the end the first half, allowing Bird to grab the outlet pass and score on a layup at the buzzer.
It didn’t start badly for the Dream, who led most of the first quarter until the Storm surged late to take a 21-17 lead. Seattle continued to shoot the ball well and did not allow the Dream to convert a fast-break basket in the first half. Seattle led 41-33 at halftime.
It got worse in the third quarter. Seattle outscored Atlanta 32-16 and led 73-49 after three periods.
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