Dream lose to Maya Moore’s Minnesota Lynx

For two and a half quarters Friday night the Dream didn’t look like a last-place team as they staked themselves to a 16-point lead over the Western Conference leaders.

But the Dream’s defense faltered and a short-handed roster let that large lead slip away in an 84-82 loss to Minnesota at Philips Arena. Lynx star forward Maya Moore, who’s from Gwinnett County, made the go-ahead 3-pointer with about two minutes left in the game, part of her game-high 36 points.

“We’ve been shooting ourselves in the foot all year,” Dream coach Michael Cooper said of the Dream’s late-game collapse. “We started losing it (on defense).”

After Moore’s late 3-pointer put the Lynx up 80-79, their first lead since early in the second quarter, the Dream missed 3-pointers on three consecutive possessions. Then with 31 seconds remaining Lynx center Sylvia Fowles made a 12-foot jumper.

Out of a timeout, Dream forward Angel McCoughtry badly missed a 3-pointer, and the Lynx sealed the win with two free throws. McCoughtry led the Dream with 32 points, but was 3-for-9 on 3-pointers.

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“We were looking to get something going to the basket,” Cooper said. “Angel being the competitor that she is, and the woman that she is, she was trying to tie the score up.”

McCoughtry said her 3-point shot was the play call in the huddle.

In the past four years, a regular-season matchup between the Dream and Minnesota was a highly anticipated affair and often a finals preview. The two teams met in the finals in 2011 and 2013, with the Lynx winning both times. Moore took home MVP honors in 2013.

But the Dream entered Friday five games out of a playoff spot, in serious danger of missing the playoffs for the first time since 2009. Two weeks ago they suffered an 86-70 loss to the Lynx in Minneapolis, part of a six-game losing streak.

To make matters worse, they had nine available players for much of the game, after an early injury to starting shooting guard Roneeka Hodges.

Despite the short-handed roster, the Dream led at halftime 45-36.

In the second half, McCoughtry scored 10 of the Dream’s first 14 points. The Dream took advantage of McCoughtry’s contributions to stretch the lead to a game-high 16 points during the period.

But the Dream’s defense stopped creating turnovers and fast-break opportunities, and the Lynx ended the period on a 15-3 run to cut the deficit to four, at 66-62.

“We have to generate offense out of our defense, and I thought we did that in the first half,” Cooper said.

Dream forward Sancho Lyttle returned from a left foot injury and started Friday, her first action in 10 games. But the injury news wasn’t all positive for the Dream. Starting shooting guard Tiffany Hayes sat out the contest with knee tendinitis. About a minute into the game, Hodges, her replacement, was carried off the floor and later diagnosed with a calf strain.

Rookie forward Cierra Burdick already was out for the season with a stress fracture in her left foot.

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