With the last seed for the playoffs on the line, the Atlanta Dream responded.
The Dream defeated the Washington Mystics 73-67 on Sunday at Philips Arena, all-star forward Angel McCoughtry putting the game out of reach with 41 seconds remaining when she converted a free throw for a 69-61 lead.
The Dream are in do-or-die mode going into their final three games. One loss will eliminate from qualifying for the postseason and snap their six-year playoff streak. The Mystics have lost four straight but just need one win to make the playoffs.
Atlanta surrendered the first two points of the game to Mystics center Stefanie Dolson, but that was the last lead Washington would have for the remainder of the game.
Dream guard Tiffany Hayes led the team with 19 points, including four big three-pointers to tie her single-game high. Sancho Lyttle, taking advantage of her move to the small forward position, earned a double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds. McCoughtry came off the bench for the third straight game and finished with 18 points and four steals.
The team’s offensive execution allows coach Michael Cooper the luxury of bringing McCoughtry off the bench to maintain momentum.
“They’re executing and we’re getting our shots through the offense,” Cooper said. “And then when I bring Angel in, they’re already going so now (McCoughtry) can create and keep it going for us.”
The Dream maintained their lead largely due to their ability to get to the free throw line. In the first half, the Dream had 17 points from the line while the Mystics settled for one. Even though the Mystics only missed one free throw in the game, their six attempts were minimal to the 25-of-31 free throws the Dream converted.
Mystics guard Ivory Latta tried to lead her team to a comeback with 22 points, but the team could only get within five points before the Dream went on another run. Latta was 3-of-7 from the three-point line, including a buzzer beater at the end of the first half to keep the game within six points.
“(Latta) was the one that best stuck with it the whole game,” Mystic coach Mike Thibault said. “We needed every point she had. … It was a great effort by her.”
The Mystics will be glad to get off the road after sustaining four consecutive losses away from home.
“We just got to win one game,” Thibault said. “We need to get home, get regrouped and look at the next game. … It would help if the free throws weren’t 30-something to six.”
The victory gave Cooper his 199th career win. The Dream will play to save their season again Wednesday at 7 p.m. when they host Los Angeles.
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