Angel McCoughtry said she was devastated after the Dream surrendered home-court advantage in a 71-56 loss to Washington in their playoff opener on Thursday at Philips Arena.
“We’ve got to want to win a championship,” she said. “Until we decide we want to win a championship, this is what is going to happen. I’m devastated because I want to win a championship. It’s not about who is more talented or who has this and that. It’s about heart. We’ve got to want to win more than our opponent.”
McCoughtry, the league’s leading scorer for the second consecutive season, said she needed to improve as well after missing 14 of her 20 field-goal attempts. She finished with a game-high 20 points.
She wasn’t the only Dream player to fail find her range. As a team, the Dream made a franchise-low 26.7 percent of their shots to tie their lowest scoring output this season. Washington grabbed more of both team’s misses, outrebounding the Dream by 12.The Mystics were paced by forward Crystal Langhorne (12 points, 15 rebounds) and center Kia Vaughn (12 points, six rebounds). Point guard Ivory Latta added 14 points, seven assists and six rebounds.
“Getting 70 (75) attempts and making 20 is not acceptable,” Dream coach and general manager Fred Williams said.
The Dream entered the playoffs riding a four-game losing streak and aware that they needed to win Thursday’s opener because they were just 4-13 on the road this year. Now the Dream must win Saturday in Washington to avoid a quick exit from the playoffs. The best-of-three series will return to Atlanta, if necessary, on Monday.
Instead of scrapping and clawing, which is how McCoughtry said they should have played, the Dream were outhustled. Washington turned 15 team turnovers into 16 points.
“Huge win for us,” Langhorne said. “Just to come here to Atlanta and get the win is exciting for the team.”
Missing easy shots inside, the Dream’s offense began to degenerate early in the second quarter into a series of one-on-one matchups that the Dream weren’t winning. The Mystics stretched their lead to 24-16 with 5:55 left in the half on the strength of a sizable rebounding margin.
The frustration began to mount, with McCoughtry, who was 1-of-5 and having trouble getting the ball, answering one Dream fan who yelled “it’s all right,” with, “it’s not all right.”
“The biggest thing is to make her work hard,” Washington coach Mike Thibault said of his team’s plan for McCoughtry. “She has struggled for the most part during the year making threes. We would prefer to live with that as opposed to layups and getting to the free-throw line.”
Washington stretched its lead to 40-29 on a 3-pointer by Latta with 6:40 left in the third quarter. Latta made another a few minutes later to push her team’s lead to 47-32 with 3:48 left in the third.
“If we aren’t upset right now and embarrassed, then we might as well just go home and not show up in Washington D.C.,” McCoughtry said. “Right now needs to be a turning point. Right now.”