The Atlanta Dream saw a 20 point lead disappear in the second half Friday night but they had just enough to hold on for an 85-82 win over the Minnesota Lynx Friday night at Philips Arena. The win was Atlanta's third straight and gives the Dream a confidence boost against the team that swept them in a pair of Finals appearances.
Atlanta came out strong with a superb defensive effort and dominated the first half. The Dream got off to a strong defensive start shadowing the WNBA's leading scorer Maya Moore with Tiffany Hayes who limited her to just two shot attempts in the first 20 minutes. Atlanta led by as many as 20 points late in the half but settled for a 50-33 advantage at the intermission.
Minnesota predictably came out firing in the third quarter behind Lindsay Whalen and Moore along with Seimone Augustus who were finally finding some room to operate. A bucket by Moore with 6:29 remaining in the third cut Atlanta's lead to just nine. Angel McCoughtry responded with a pair of back-to-back pull up threes in transition to stretch the lead back to 15 on the Dream's next two possessions. Neither shot would be categorized as great shots but they both went in and the result was a huge momentum shift for the Dream.
The Lynx kept pressing though and a pair of Moore free throws cut the lead to 82-80 with 1:58 remaining. McCoughtry and Augustus traded baskets to make it 84-82 before Whaling's game-tying attempt missed and was rebounded by the Dream sealing the victory.
McCoughtry led the Dream with 23 points, six rebounds and five assists. She finished just 7-20 from the field but this was a nice game for Angel as she hit some big shots particularly in the second half when the Lynx were making their run. She along with Hayes also did an excellent job of making things difficult for Augustus and Moore.
Erika de Souza scored 13 of her 16 points in the first half and grabbed 11 rebounds to go with three blocked shots. Sancho Lyttle recorded a double-double of her own with 10 points and a game-high 12 rebounds.
In addition to a good defensive performance, Tiffany Hayes scored 15 points including three three-pointers. Jasmine Thomas also finished with three made threes and scored 13. As a team the Dream were 9-15 from beyond-the-arc.
Whalen led the Lynx with 22 points, eight rebounds and five assists. Janel McCarville added 18 while Augustus chipped in 17. Moore finished with just 10 and her and Augustus combined to go 8-25 from the field.
Minnesota is a two-time champion so I doubt this loss does anything to them. They will pick up and move on to the next challenge. For the Dream it is a solid win and a confidence boost against a team they have struggled against and one that is a measuring stick in many ways for them.