Struggling Dream faces big game against Liberty

The Atlanta Dream are stuck on 18 wins and that’s not a good thing.

The Dream will set a new franchise mark for the most victories in a season when they win one more The problem is they're on a three-game losing streak.

And with the WNBA Eastern Conference primed for a crazy finish, now is not the time for Atlanta, which currently owns the league's fourth-best record, to forget how to win.

The Dream (18-12) host the New York Liberty (17-11) Friday night in Philips Arena in a meeting of the conference's third and second seeds..

The top four teams from each of the two conferences qualify for the playoffs and there are enough scenarios involving the Dream to make Philips scoreboard-watching a must over the season's final week and a half.

The Dream have a 3 1/2 game lead over Connecticut (14-15), which is in fifth place in the East. The Dream will qualify for the playoffs for the playoffs Friday night if they beat New York and Connecticut loses toSeattle. But the Dream can also miss the playoffs entirely if they lose the rest of their games and Connecticut wins the rest of theirs.

The Dream also remain within reach of first-place Indiana (19-10) and could still finish atop the East with home-court advantage up to the WNBA finals. Indiana, which leads the Dream and Liberty each by 1 1/2 games, plays host to Phoenix on Friday and still has five games to play.

Dream coach Marynell Meadors said she isn’t worried about scenarios, but is more focused on getting her team get a much-needed victory.

“Our goal is to get in the playoffs,” Meadors said. “I think the team is very deserving to get into the playoffs.”

As of now, nothing is certain.

“We have to approach every game like it’s a playoff game from now on,” Dream forward Iziane Castro Marques said. “All the work we’ve done can be thrown away if we lose these games. We don’t just want to qualify for the playoffs.”

All this comes together with the hottest team in the league hitting town with a six-game winning streak. The Liberty have not lost since falling to the Dream 82-75 in Philips on July 25.

Liberty guard Cappie Pondexter is averaging 20.8 points and 4.8 assists. Forward Nicole Powell, who averages 8.4 points and 4.1 rebounds, just scored 21 points to lead the team to a 74-72 victory at Minnesota on Sunday.

“Cappie is a handful to guard and Powell has been on a roll lately,” Dream forward Angel McCoughtry said.

As distressing as the three-game losing streak has been, the Dream are also 4-7 since the All-Star break.

“The Eastern Conference is so tough, but I think we’ve weathered the storm,” Meadors said. “We need to build momentum and confidence with a win.”

For now, the team still holds its own destiny.

“We don’t want to hope for other people to lose,” McCoughtry said.

That’s why the Dream have no choice but to set a new mark for the most victories if they intend to make the playoffs.