Dream reclaims first place in Eastern Conference

It takes a team to claim first place, not an individual.

The Dream proved that in their Eastern Conference first-place showdown with Indiana at Philips Arena on Sunday.

Showing playoff-caliber intensity on defense and smooth half-court intensity on offense, to go with balanced scoring, the Dream led from start to finish and cruised to a 90-74 victory.

The first-place Dream (18-9) lead Indiana (16-9) by one game in the Eastern Conference. The victory gave the Dream sole possession of first place for the first time since a 108-103 victory against Connecticut on July 7. The Dream also tied a franchise record for regular-season victories.

Indiana forward Tamika Catchings led all players with 24 points, but the Dream offset that with four players scoring in double figures.

Iziane Castro Marques, playing with a plastic mask to protect a broken nose suffered in practice, scored 22 points. Angel McCoughtry scored 20 points and had seven assists and five rebounds. Erika de Souza had 16 points and five rebounds. Sancho Lyttle scored 13 points and had eight rebounds and four steals.

The Dream also had a 46-12 edge in points in the paint.

Castro Marques said “championships go through Indiana” because of the Fever's dominance of the Eastern Conference in recent years, and the Dream wanted to show that they could play well against them. Indiana defeated the Dream 89-70 on July 16.

“We had a tough loss against them [the last time we played], and we definitely wanted to impose ourselves,” Castro Marques said.

The victory also gave the Dream a four-game winning streak.

“What we’re seeing is a team that is starting to mature a little bit into the style of play that we play,” Dream coach Marynell Meadors said.

The Dream’s post players, Lyttle and de Souza, were the difference for the team in the first half. Lyttle scored 12 points and had four steals and four rebounds, and de Souza scored 12 points and had four rebounds.

With the inside locked down, Dream players were free to gamble on perimeter defense for steals and deflections and throw off the timing of Indiana’s shooters.

“We just got off to a great start. Defensively we got in the passing lanes,” Meadors said. “We felt like we were very aggressive.”

Lyttle scored four points and had four steals and three assists to lead the Dream on a 13-2 run at the end of the first quarter, which gave them a 25-15 lead.

“For us to keep up with them offensively, we had to play great defense,” Lyttle said.