The Atlanta Dream saw their brief two-game winning streak come to an end on Sunday with a 83-76 loss to the New York Liberty thanks in part to a huge game from Tina Charles.
Both teams traded punches early on with the Liberty attacking the paint while the Dream looked to get out and run. New York led 16-15 at the end of what was a sluggish first quarter for both teams. The pace picked up in the second for the Dream in large part to a rash of Liberty turnovers. Atlanta is at their best when they are in transition and that is even more the case against a bigger and slower team like the Liberty.
The Dream started the quarter with a quick 6-0 run to take a 21-16 advantage and force a Bill Laimbeer timeout. The Liberty didn't flinch and continued to pound it inside to Charles. A 9-0 run by the Liberty put them up 34-29 with under two minutes to go in the half. The Dream answered back with another quick 6-0 run to take a 35-34 lead into halftime.
The Dream were fortunate to be up by one at the half given that the Liberty had a 19-12 rebounding edge and were 4-7 from three-point range. New York turned the ball over 14 times in the first half which led to 18 points for Atlanta.
Atlanta lost focus in the third quarter as the Liberty outscored them 26-16 to go up 60-51. Charles was again the biggest thorn in the Dream's side scoring 10 of her game-high 29 points in the period. The game turned physical and Atlanta didn't respond well as New York used a 13-2 run to take control.
Angel McCoughtry did everything she could in the fourth to bring the Dream back scoring 17 of her team-high 28 points in the final 10 minutes. Whether it was Charles or Cappie Pondexter, the Liberty had an answer for every Atlanta run. After a quiet first half where she attempted just one shot, Pondexter finished with 13 points and seven assists including a big three-pointer during New York's third quarter run. Thirteen of Anna Cruz's 18 points came in the second half. After turning the ball over at a high rate in the first half the Liberty committed just three turnovers in the second half.
"We didn't turn it over. We played the same way in the first half defensive wise except in the first half we just threw the ball all over the gym." said Laimbeer following the game.
McCoughtry's 28 points came on 8-16 shooting including 4-6 from three-point range. She grabbed six rebounds and had five steals. Sancho Lyttle and Erika de Souza finished combined for 29 points and 10 rebounds or two boards shy of the game-high 14 pulled down by Charles. Celine Dumerc made her third straight start for the Dream at point guard and finished with a game-high nine assists but was held scoreless and also committed four turnovers.
The Dream did get a bit of good news on Sunday as head coach Michael Cooper returned to the sidelines. He will be with the team on their upcoming four-game road trip that begins on Tuesday in Phoenix.