Dream look to close out Sky in Game 3

With the Dream on the brink of a rare defeat in the first round of the WNBA playoffs, the franchise’s all-time best player decided it was time to carry them.

“I wanted to will the team to a win,” forward Angel McCoughtry said. “I wanted the ball in my hands, and I wanted to take over the game.”

McCoughtry delivered with 39 points to lift the Dream to a 92-83 victory Sunday at Chicago in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinals. The deciding Game 3 is Tuesday at Philips Arena, where the Sky won 80-77 on Friday.

The Dream will try to avoid their third first-round playoff series loss since drafting McCoughtry with the No. 1 overall pick in 2009. They lost in the opening round in 2009 and 2012 and advanced to the WNBA finals in 2010, 2011 and 2013.

“If we continue to follow the game plan and be aggressive, we’ll have our sixth man, which is our crowd,” McCoughtry said. “But this time we have to close it out and we have to get them on their heels a little bit.”

The Sky couldn’t solve McCoughtry in Game 2. She made 13 of 20 field-goal attempts and 13 of 14 free-throw tries while coming close to her career postseason high of 42 points.

Sky coach Pokey Chatman said McCoughtry “set the tone early and put the team on her back and you can’t have that.” But Chatman said the Sky also came up short in three key areas: allowing 31 fast-break points, committing 15 turnovers that Atlanta converted into 22 points and getting beat 32-26 in rebounds.

Chatman said slowing McCoughtry would be a matter of guarding her without fouling. Dream coach Michael Cooper said McCoughtry’s teammates follow her lead when she’s assertive.

“The success that we’ve had this year is really shown in the success she’s had this year,” Cooper said. “Angel really trusts her teammates and when she is being aggressive it makes our team better. If they’re not going to close the gap, then she’s getting into the paint and (will) be able to score like she did.”