If the Atlanta Dream are going to make a return trip to the WNBA Finals then they are going to have to do it the hard way. Atlanta dropped Game 1 and homecourt advantage Friday night with an 80-77 loss to the Chicago Sky at Philips Arena.
The Dream came out of the gate hitting on all cylinders and took at 23-18 lead at the end of the first quarter. Atlanta kept the pressure up in the second quarter and led 35-23 with 4:24 remaining in the half. Chicago answered back however behind Elena Delle Donne who scored nine of her 21 points in the period. The Sky finished the half on a 13-2 run and cut Atlanta's lead to one, 37-36.
Things tightened up considerably in the second half nine lead changes as both teams continued to see-saw the lead back and forth. Atlanta's offense started to bog down in the second half as Angel McCoughtry battled her way through a tough shooting night. Epiphanny Prince gave Chicago a 75-70 lead with 3:10 remaining but the Dream answered back with five straight points by McCoughtry including a three-pointer to tie things up with 2:21 left.
A key moment came with less than a minute remaining when Atlanta's Erika de Souza missed a put back attempt and after a scramble the ball went out of bounds. Officials went to the replay but were unable to determine whose possession it was leading to a jump ball. Sylvia Fowles won the tip and gave the Sky the ball with 42 seconds remaining.
Courtney Vandersloot put the Sky up for good with a pull up jumper with just 20.9 remaining. After a timeout, the Dream squandered their final chance with a busted play that resulted in a long desperation three-point attempt by McCoughtry. Chicago sealed the win at the free throw line and escaped with the victory.
Delle Donne led five different Chicago players in double figures with 21 points. She was held scoreless in the fourth quarter but carried the Sky's offense for much of the first half in her return to the starting lineup. Prince finished with 14 while Vandersloot added 13 points, seven assists and just one turnover. Sylvia Fowles finished with 12 points and 14 rebounds. Chicago shot 58 percent from the field in the second half.
McCoughtry led all scorers with 24 points but was just 8-22 from the field. Erika de Souza finished with 12 points and eight boards while Aneika Henry added 11 off the bench.
Atlanta has their work cut out for them now as they face elimination Sunday in Game 2 on the road in Chicago. The Dream finished the regular season with a five-game road losing streak and lost both trips to the Windy City this season.