Picture courtesy of the Atlanta Dream's Facebook Fan Page
The Atlanta Dream certainly weren't at their best on Sunday afternoon but as they have done virtually the entire second half of the WNBA season, they found a way to win. Atlanta outscored Connecticut 25-13 in the fourth quarter to capture a series clinching 69-64 victory in gritty fashion.
In their Game 1 victory, Atlanta used their fast break attack to near perfection outscoring the Sun 17-2 in fast break points. In Game 2, the Sun were able to neutralize that threat and the result was a slow paced grind it out playoff game that Atlanta typically struggles in. When you add into the equation that the Dream's leading scorer and MVP candidate Angel McCoughtry was held scoreless for virtually the first 25 minutes of this contest you see how lucky Atlanta was to still be within striking distance.
They were able to hang in by digging in defensively and forcing 17 turnovers off of which they scored 20 points. Connecticut coach Mike Thibault said after the game that they turnovers were the difference and that his team's defense was pretty good pointing out that they held Atlanta to just 36 percent shooting and 69 total points for the game.
"We didn't shoot a great percentage and our 17 turnovers killed us. You can't have 17 turnovers in a playoff game and win" said Thibault.
After grabbing the lead in the first quarter, Connecticut grabbed the lead from the Dream midway through the second on a Renee Montgomery three pointer. Atlanta wouldn't regain the lead again until a Lindsey Harding layup with under four minutes to play put them in front for good.
"At the beginning we didn't hit our open shots. We were down at halftime and it doesn't seem to bother us. It makes us fight harder and we are tough in the fourth quarter. It was all about our defense and it was all about the players" said Atlanta Dream coach Marynell Meadors.
By slowing Atlanta's transition game early, Connecticut was able to sag off of Atlanta in the half court set which effectively shut down any driving lanes for Angel McCoughtry and Lindsey Harding. The result was a lot of attempted jump shots for the Dream that they had a hard time knocking down.
Angel McCoughtry scored all 12 of her points in the second half and did good work on the boards grabbing nine. Sancho Lyttle, Erika De Souza, and Lindsey Harding all joined McCoughtry with 12 points each. De Souza finished with 10 rebounds and earned praise from Meadors after the game for the job she did against Connecticut's Tina Charles. Harding also finished with six assists for the Dream.
Asjha Jones scored a game-high 15 points for Connecticut on 7 of 21 shooting. Tina Charles finished with 13 points and 17 rebounds while Renee Montgomery chipped in 10 points and six assists.
The victory earns Atlanta an extra day off as they wait for the winner of Monday night's match up between Indiana and New York. If the Liberty pull off the upset, then Atlanta will have home court advantage in the Eastern Conference Finals. If Indiana wins then Atlanta will have just one home game in the series.
For more on the Atlanta Dream and the WNBA Playoffs, be sure and check out SB Nation's women's hoops blog Swish Appeal.