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Dream top Sparks for eighth-straight win

The Atlanta Dream extended their win streak to a franchise record eight-games Tuesday as they defeated the Los Angeles Sparks, 81-71.

The game was contested for the first three quarters, separated by six or less points until Dream went on a 10-2 streak late in the fourth, leaving the Sparks in the dust.

After missing the playoffs last season and only earning 12 wins, the Dream (16-9) enter the All-Star break with the second-best record in the league and are in first place in the Eastern Conference— two games ahead of the Washington Mystics.

Against the Sparks, who lost the last five home games, the Dream shot 49.3 from the field and 30.8 percent beyond the arc, but struggled from the free throw line, going 7-of-12.

Guard Angel McCoughtry led the Dream with 19 points, seven rebounds and three assists. 

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“(McCoughtry is) one of the better players in this league. She’s tough to defend,” Sparks coach Brian Agler said of the Dream’s lone All-Star after the game. “She is a little unconventional in how she plays, but sometimes that makes it a little more difficult because she’s unpredictable. She really reads defenses well.” 

The Sparks were led in points Chelsea Gray and Candace Parker who scored 18 and 17 points, respectively. Parker also recorded nine rebounds and five assists in the loss.

Playing without Alana Beard and second-leading scorer Nneka Ogwumike, the Sparks scoring slowed late in Tuesday’s game. The team went 4-of-15 from the field and 0-of-4 from the 3-point line in the fourth quarter. 

Dream coach Nicki Collen knew for the Dream to keep their win streak alive, it was essential to take advantage of the Sparks’ fatigue as the game closed.

“I thought we had to get to their legs, and knowing that they only played seven players, being without Beard and Nneka (Ogwumike), we kept saying if we stay close, if we stay close, we can pull away in the fourth,” Collen said after the game. “We’ll keep our guys fresher, and I think you saw that. As (the Sparks) got tired legs, they became easier to screen, and so all of a sudden, our set plays coming out of timeouts turned into easy layups and shots.

“And then they started missing some shots. I mean Candace (Parker) missed some shots late that she doesn’t usually miss, and I think so much of that can be attributed to fatigue.”

Winning seven-straight road games for the first time since 2012, the Dream return home Tuesday after the All-Star break to host the Mystics at 7 p.m. ET.

While McCoughtry will play in her fifth All-Star game Saturday and point guard Renee Montgomery will compete in the 3-point contest, the Dream veterans will still be focused on how they can improve during their six days off.

“We feel like we haven’t even reached our peak yet,” McCoughtry said after Tuesday’s game. “We feel like the sky's the limit for us right now, and you know what, I really want to get a ring. I feel like I deserve a ring, it’s my time to get a ring, and what better way to come off of not playing last season.”

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