Jun 26, 2012; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Dream forward Sancho Lyttle (20) goes for a lay up past Indiana Fever center Tammy Sutton-Brown (left) during the first half at Philips Arena. Mandatory Credit: Josh D. Weiss-US PRESSWIRE
Coming off their first road victory of the season, the Atlanta Dream returned home for an afternoon affair with their Eastern conference rivals, the Indiana Fever. The Fever, who were eliminated 2-1 by Atlanta in the Eastern Conference Finals last season, jumped out to a good start and currently ranks third in the East behind the Chicago Sky and the Connecticut Sun. Indiana was looking to extend their winning streak to three games and try to win the season series against the Dream as they led the series 2-0 on the season by beating Atlanta 92-84 in their season opener and 78-62 in their contest at Philips Arena. Today's match-up featured two of the top players in the WNBA today in Atlanta's Angel Mccoughtry and Indiana's Tamika Catchings. Angel Mccoughtry, in her fourth season, continues to be one of the dominant players of the first half of the season as she is the leader around the WNBA in scoring averaging (22.7) points per game. For the Fever, reigning MVP Tamika Catchings continues to be effective for her team as she averaged (18.1) points per game and Indiana is also the 4th highest scoring team around the league to start the season. Atlanta was looking to force offensive mistakes in the contest as their defense is the best in the league in forcing turnovers averaging (19.3) per contest and ranked second in steals per game with (10.8). Two of the league's top thiefs are on the Dream as Angel Mccoughtry led the WNBA with (3.7) steals each game and teammate Sancho Lyttle is second with (2.7) per game. In the final home game for the Dream for two months until the Olympic Break ends, a large crowd of (8,388) fans and many children groups as Atlanta would earn their first winning streak of the season.
Aneika Henry opened the game with a basket to put Atlanta on the board at the (9:42) mark in the first quarter; however, Tammy Sutton Brown would respond by hitting a jump shot to tie the game up at 2-2 with (9:24) remaining in the period. Armintie Price would respond by splitting free throws to give the Dream a 3-2 lead and both teams went over a minute without scoring until Shavonte Zellous knocked down a jump shot to give Indiana a 4-3 lead with (6:55) remaining in the period. Ketia Swanier would respond by scoring a lay-up to push Atlanta back in the lead at 5-4 and Erlana Larkins would respond with her own basket to push the Fever back on top 6-5 with (5:26) remaining. After an official timeout, Briann January would knock down a three-pointer to push Indiana's lead to 9-5 and Tammy Sutton Brown's lay-up would top off a 7-0 run by the Fever to give them an 11-5 lead with (4:04) remaining in the period. Ketia Swanier ended their run by scoring on a lay-up to cut Indiana's lead down to four, which was Atlanta's first field goal made in almost 3 minutes and rookie Aneika Henry followed with two free throws to cut the Fever lead down to 11-9 with (3:01) remaining. Sancho Lyttle would complete Atlanta's small 5-0 run by splitting her free throws to trim the Fever lead down to one. Indiana responded with a 7-0 run after Erin Philips hit a three point basket (2:28 left), Erlana Larkins knocked down another lay-up (1:37 left) and Jessica Davenport followed with another lay-up to push Indiana's lead to 18-10 with (57.9) remaining in the period. Lindsey Harding ended their run with a jumpshot and the Fever took a 18-12 lead into the next period. For the Dream, Ketia Swanier and Aneika Henry shared the team's lead in scoring. Swanier had (4) points and Henry had (4) points and a rebound. Indiana's scoring leader was shared by Erlana Larkins and Tammy Sutton-Brown with (4) points apiece as well. Larkins had (4) points and (2) abounds and Sutton-Brown had (4) points and two rebounds as well. Neither Angel Mccoughtry or Tamika Catchings registered a point in the first period and Catchings left game with (6:31) remaining due to two early fouls.
Just like their home loss on May 27th, this period was a tale of two quarters. This time, Atlanta's slow start would spark a huge second period. Sancho Lyttle opened the period with a lay-up to cut Indiana's lead to 18-14 with (9:00) remaining in the period. Lindsey Harding followed with another lay-up to cut the lead down to two points. Cathrine Kraayeveld gave Atlanta the lead after knocking down a three pointer to give the Dream a 19-18 lead with (8:09) remaining in the period. Yelena Leuchanka followed by splitting free throws to give Atlanta a 20-18 lead. Angel Mccoughtry topped off the Dream's 13-0 run with a 3-pointer to give Atlanta a 23-18 lead with (6:47) remaining in the quarter. Tamika Catchings would end Atlanta's run by splitting free throws to cut the Dream lead to 23-19; however, Angel Mccoughtry would respond with a lay-up to give the Dream a 25-19 lead. Tiffany Hayes would also add to the Dream's lead by hitting two free throws to extend their lead to eight and Cathrine Kraayeveld hit a jump-shot to give the Dream a 29-19 lead with (4:37) remaining in the period. Katie Douglas would finally score a field goal for the Indiana Fever as she finished a three point play to trim Atlanta's lead to 29-22. Douglas basket was the first Fever field goal since (57.9) remaining in the first quarter and would be the only one of the entire quarter for the team. Angel Mccoughtry would respond by scoring two free throws of her own to extend the Dream's lead back to nine, which forced Indiana to take a timeout with (2:42) remaining in the half. Atlanta was on a 21-4 run since the Fever had a eight point lead in the first period. After the timeout, Shavonte Zellous would score two free throws to trim Atlanta's lead down to 31-24 with (2:42) remaining and Lindsey Harding would follow by knocking down a jump shot to give the Dream a nine point lead and Angel Mccoughtry's two free throws extended the lead to 35-24 with (54.9) remaining in the half. Tamika Catchings would halt another Dream run by knocking down two free throws to trim the deficit back to nine points; however, Sancho Lyttle would score a jump shot with (20.2) remaining to give Atlanta a 37-26 lead heading into halftime. Atlanta would outscore Indiana 25-8 in the quarter as the Dream shot (53.3%) in the period and held Indiana to a uncharacteristic (06.7%) in the quarter. The Dream outscored the Liberty in the paint (16-12) and out-rebounded Indiana (20-11). Atlanta's leading scorer was Angel Mccoughtry who posted (9) points, (2) rebounds, a steal and a block. For the Fever, three players shared the scoring lead with (4) points apiece and MVP candidate Tamika Catchings was held to (3) points and didn't record a single field goal in the half.
Briann January opened the second half by scoring a lay-up to trim Atlanta's lead down to 37-28 and after her basket, both teams would go without scoring a basket or any point to that extent until Katie Douglas knocked down two free throws to trim Atlanta's lead to 37-30 with (7:55) remaining. Angel Mccoughtry would score the Dream's first field goal of the second half on a jump shot to give the Dream a 39-30 lead with (7:41) left in the period. Katie Douglas responded with a three-point basket to trim the deficit down to six, which was the closest the game would be for the rest of the afternoon. Sancho Lyttle would follow with a three point play to push the Dream lead back to 42-33 with (7:06) left in the period. Angel Mccoughtry and rookie Tiffany Hayes would follow with free throws to give Atlanta a 46-34 lead until Tamika Catchings knocked down two free throws to trim the score back to ten. Sancho Lyttle scored a jump shot to extend the Dream's lead to 14 points with (5:26) remaining in the quarter. After the Dream's 9-1 run, the Fever would rally to trim the lead down to eight points as Tamika Catchings scored two free throws (4:36 left), Catchings scored her first field goal of the game with a jump shot (4:28 left), and Jessica Davenport scored on a jump shot to make the deficit 48-40 with 3:54 remaining in the period with forced Atlanta into a timeout. After the Dream timeout, Aneika Henry answered with a three point play to extend the Dream's lead to 51-40 and Angel Mccoughtry would follow with a jump shot to extend Atlanta's lead to 13 points and Sancho Lyttle jump shot topped off the 7-0 Dream run to extend Atlanta's lead to 55-40 with (2:22) remaining in the period forcing the Fever into a timeout. After Indiana's timeout, Jessica Davenport would respond by knocking down two free throws to trim the Dream lead down to 55-42 with (2:04) remaining in the quarter. Angel Mccoughtry split her free throw to give Atlanta a 56-42 lead. Jeanette Pohlen would answer with a jump shot to trim the lead to 56-44 but Angel Mccoughtry would follow with another basket to give the Dream an commanding 58-44 lead heading into the fourth quarter. For the Dream, Angel Mccoughtry led the team in scoring with (20) points and Indiana's leading scorer was Tamika Catchings and Katie Douglas with (8) points apiece.
Sancho Lyttle opened the final period with a jump shot to give the team a 60-44 lead with (9:05) remaining in the game and Cathrine Kraayeveld would continue Atlanta's dominance in the game by nailing a three pointer to give the Dream a 63-44 lead, their biggest lead of the entire game with (8:29) remaining in the game. Briann January would score two more free throws to trim Atlanta's lead down to 17 points and Jeanette Pohlen would follow with another jump shot to trim the Dream lead down to 63-48. Sancho Lyttle responded by splitting free throws to give the Dream a 16 point lead with (5:29) remaining in the period, which was Atlanta's first point scored in three minutes. Indiana would get two more free throws from Briann January to cut Atlanta's lead down to 64-50 but Angel Mccoughtry would respond with another jump shot to give the Dream a 66-50 lead with (4:28) to go in the game. Indiana would put together a 8-0 run in the final few minutes of the game as Sasha Goodlett scored a jump shot and a free throw to complete a three point play (2:16 left), followed by a Jeanette Pohlen three pointer (1:23 left) and a lay-up from Sasha Goodlett (52.2 left) to cut the Atlanta lead down to 66-58 but the Fever fouled Angel Mccoughtry and her two free throws would close the game out and extend the Dream's lead to 68-58 and Sancho Lyttle scored the final basket of the game as the Dream would win 70-58 to build momentum heading into their six game road trip before the Olympics Break. Atlanta's leading scorer was Angel Mccoughtry with (22) points, (5) rebounds, (2) steals, (2) blocks, and (2) assists. Sancho Lyttle assisted her with (17) points, (8) rebounds, (3) assists, (2) steals, and a block. For Indiana, Jessica Davenport, Katie Douglas, and Tamika Catchings would lead the team in scoring with (8) points apiece. Atlanta outscored Indiana in the paint (24-22), fast break points (13-2) and out-rebounded the Fever (41-29).
PLAYERS OF THE GAME:
In today's game, Angel Mccoughtry continued her dominant performance to open the WNBA season. Against Indiana, she posted (22) points, (5) rebounds, (2) steals, (2) blocks, and (2) assists. Mccoughtry posted her ninth game with 20 points or more this season and when she's producing big numbers, Atlanta is one of the toughest teams to beat in the WNBA. In only her second game back from missing with a sprained left MCL, Mccoughtry continues to play through the pain and carry her team like the superstar that she is becoming around the nation. When she's providing her team with an overall consistent effort on both sides of the basketball, it gives the Dream the lift that the team needs nightly from her to put themselves in position to win games in this league.
Sancho Lyttle continues to have a great season for the Dream as she is carrying the load under the basket while Erika Desouza is away on her duties for the Brazilian basketball team. Against Indiana, Lyttle finished with (17) points, (8) rebounds, (3) assists, (2) steals, and a block. She also did a great job defending MVP candidate Tamika Catchings throughout the game as she held her to (8) points off 2-9 shooting, which is a shocking stat because Catchings have posted some of her best numbers against the Atlanta Dream on offense but coach Marynell Meadors made a tremendous adjustment and Sancho Lyttle didn't disappoint as she kept the Fever from having a dominant game in the paint. Lyttle is a great rebounder for Atlanta and have the ability to score in the paint and can be a defensive nightmare for opposing forwards and she continued to show that effectiveness today.
The Atlanta Dream needed a victory against the Indiana Fever to spark some momentum as they carry their momentum on a road trip that will take them into the Olympics break in mid-July. Atlanta will play some great teams on the road during this stretch including Chicago, Los Angeles, Seattle, and San Antonio and these are some crucial games that the Dream will need to be focused to win on the road. Long road trips are tough in the WNBA but Atlanta have the depth and talent to go on the road and continue their winning streak as they will take on the Tulsa Shock on Friday Night at 8:00 PM. If you want to follow the Atlanta Dream games on the road, sign up on WNBA.com and you'll be able to see the road games for free on Live Access. Until next time, LET'S GO DREAM!!!!!! For continued coverage on the team throughout the season , follow the @AtlantaDream , @PeachtreeHoops , and @ATLSportsNate on Twitter.