Dream win streak ends in New York

Riding a franchise record six-game win streak, the Dream, the best team in the WNBA Eastern Conference, faced New York, the worst team, on Sunday in Madison Square Garden.

Right about there, things went off-script.

The Liberty seized control mid-way through the third quarter and Atlanta, thwarted by some 37 percent shooting, never came back in an 85-78 loss before 8,112. The Dream (9-4) still control first place in the conference but the afternoon was unsettling for a team that had won its past six by an average margin of 14.7 points.

“We have been playing well and we know to win a championship, we have to win on the road and this was a game we were looking to come here and get a win,” Magic coach Michael Cooper said.

Atlanta forward Angel McCoughtry led the team with 33 points with 10 rebounds and four steals. Guard Sancho Lyttle added 12 points with three assists.

Five Liberty players hit double-figures, led by forward Cappie Pondexter’s 23 points on 7-for-8 shooting.

“We are a good team, so we realize that we have to bring our ‘A’ game to every game, because we get everybody’s best game,” McCoughtry said. “But that is a compliment to us, so we will readjust and get back on our winning streak.”

Win streaks always end but the Liberty were not a leading candidate for ending this one. New York (4-10) had lost its last five straight and eight of its last nine. On Friday, Atlanta mauled the Liberty 85-64 in Atlanta.

“It’s always tough to play a team back to back in consecutive games,” Cooper said. “Our energy level was low. You have to credit them (the Liberty).”

After playing catch-up much of the third quarter, the Dream trailed by four points early in the fourth before Pondexter hit a 3-pointer and added a layup to make it 67-60. They extended the lead to 12 points before Atlanta closed to 77-72 with 1:11 left on McCoughtry’s layup.

But New York’s Tina Charles hit a foul line jumper just before the shot clock expired to seal it.

“I like the fight we showed towards the end,” Cooper said. “It was a very well played game by both teams and we didn’t do a lot of things here that we did at home (on Friday).”

The Dream cruised to 40-29 lead late in the second quarter capped by consecutive baskets by McCoughtry, who had 15 by halftime. But New York finished the half in a flurry, scoreing the final nine points. Sugar Rodgers had five points during that burst and Pondexter ended the half with two free throws with just under a second left to close the gap 40-38.

The Liberty hit another surge early in the third quarter. After a Pondexter 15-footer gave the Liberty a 44-42 edge, they would never trail again, scoring 14 of the next 18 for a 58-46 advantage. Alex Montgomery got it started with a 3-pointer and hit another 3 that made it 57-46 with 2:23 left in the period.