(ATLANTA) – It almost seemed like it was going to be the typical game between the Atlanta Dream and the Minnesota Lynx: a solid first half by the Dream, followed by a slow fade-away that wound end in another Lynx victory. On Tuesday night, the Dream finally flipped the script in an 88-75 home triumph where Atlanta held the Lynx to just five fourth quarter points.
“I think a lot of it is our transition offensive game,” Atlanta head coach Fred Williams said. “We did do a lot of offensive sets and we had to slow down some, but once we kicked it back into gear we starting running again.”
Minnesota forward Maya Moore summed it up: “Bad offense, plus their fast-break points. We didn’t have the defensive focus that we needed to contain them from getting in the lane and making changes.”
The Dream got off to a great start with center Erika de Souza scoring eight points and five rebounds in the first 3:49 of the game to give Atlanta a 10-4 lead and forcing Minnesota head coach Cheryl Reeve to call a timeout. The Lynx were out-rebounded 17-7 in the first quarter and Atlanta finished the quarter with a 20-17 lead.
The game threatened to get ugly in the second quarter with a 13-0 Atlanta run to take a 37-20 lead, with a frustrated Reeve earning a technical for kicking the ball as it rolled towards the bench during a timeout. Minnesota guard/forward Seimone Augustus stepped up to score eight points in the final four minutes of the half to close Atlanta’s first-half lead to 52-41, marked by a three-pointer by Maya Moore with 3.8 seconds left in the half – immediately followed by a three-pointer from Dream guard Tiffany Hayes at the halftime buzzer.
The Lynx proved to be difficult to rattle. They came right back on the strength of both Moore and forward Rebekkah Brunson who combined for 7-for-11 shooting and 9 out of 13 Minnesota third-quarter rebounds. Atlanta was held to just four rebounds and 23.1 percent shooting in the third with Dream forward Angel McCoughtry shooting 1-for-6 during those ten minutes. A pass to Brunson from Minnesota point guard Lindsay Whalen put the Lynx ahead for the first time in the game, 63-62, with 4:26 left in the game and the Lynx led 70-66 going into the final quarter.
Atlanta answered with six straight points in the first two minutes of the fourth, taking a 72-70 lead and forcing another Lynx timeout. After a two-minute lull marked by personal fouls and turnovers on both sides where neither side could score, the Dream put their stamp on the game, outscoring Minnesota 16-5 for the rest of the game as one of the best teams in the WNBA was held to 2-for-14 shooting in the final quarter.
Williams appreciated his good fortune. “We didn’t box out at all – we got really fortunate to get run-outs on some of those misses.”
Tiffany Hayes led all Atlanta scorers with 23 points, tying the career high that she tied two days previously against Washington. Hayes played only 25 minutes total, coming off the bench. “Tiffany’s a blue collar worker,” Williams said. “She goes out there and works hard. She went through a brick wall for me.” When asked if he was still watching Hayes’s minutes after her knee injury, he answered: “Yeah, I’m watching them. I’m watching them go up!”
Four Dream players would score in double figures. Erika de Souza would score 16 points and 16 rebounds, her 11th double-double of the season. She tied a career high in assists with six. McCoughtry scored 14 points and Dream guard Armintie Herrington scored 14 points on6-for-9 shooting.
Maya Moore led all Minnesota players with 23 points. Brunson had a double-double with 16 points and 14 rebounds, her ninth double-double this season. Seimone Augustus added 14 points, but Lindsay Whalen was held to just four points on 2-for-9 shooting.
* Atlanta’s home record is now 11-1, the best in the WNBA so far this season.
* The last time Atlanta defeated Minnesota was on July 1, 2010 with a 76-58 win at Philips Arena. A string of nine consecutive losses was broken, including the sweep by Minnesota in the 2011 WNBA Finals.
* This was Angel McCoughtry’s first win against a college or professional American team that has Maya Moore as a member. McCoughtry’s personal streak against Moore was 0-14 going into this game, including Louisville’s two losses to Connecticut in the 2007-08 season and three losses in the 2008-09 season including the NCAA title game.
* Cheryl Reeve was not immediately available to the press after the game.
* Williams on the use of McCoughtry during the game: “I told her if you get tired, you have to let me know, but I plan on having you at that small forward spot and also play your natural position at #3. I think seventy percent of the night she played the small forward spot. That enabled us to rotate a little bit and for us to gamble some on defense.”
* Williams on Erika de Souza’s qualification for the Brazil preliminary roster of 16 players for the FIBA Americas Championship in late September and the possibility that she would take part and miss WNBA playoff games: “Right now, she’s very happy being here. As for an early departure, she’s not asking for that. She’s looking forward to helping us go where we need to go and she’ll stay to that.”
“Her answered promise to me is that she wants to help the Dream go as far as we can go.”