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WNBA 2014: Road trip begins for the Dream in Phoenix against red hot Mercury

The Atlanta Dream begin a four-game western road trip Tuesday night in Phoenix against the red hot Mercury.

Scott Cunningham - Getty

The Atlanta Dream begin a four-game western road trip Tuesday night against the Phoenix Mercury who currently hold the best record in the WNBA. Tuesday's game will be the first meeting between the two clubs this season. They will meet again next Wednesday in Atlanta.

The Mercury have been the cream of the crop in the WNBA this season posting a 23-4 record and having won 17 of their last 18 games. They enter play on Tuesday with a 1.5 game lead over Minnesota with just seven games left to play in the season.

When you think of the Mercury, Diana Taurasi immediately comes to mind but this year's version is very much a team effort. Taurasi leads five Mercury players who average in double figures at at 17.4 per game. That group includes second-year center Brittney Griner who has taken another leap forward and is averaging 15.8 points and 7.8 rebounds per game.

How dominant have the Mercury been? They have the league's No. 1 offense averaging 84.9 points per game and a 111.3 offensive rating. They also hold the league's best scoring defense allowing just 74.3. Having Griner to protect the rim is a huge part of that but its not just all offense for the Mercury these days.

The word "inconsistent" would be the best description for the Atlanta Dream in the second part of the season. After suffering through four-straight losses around the All-Star break they responded with two straight wins but put up a disappointing effort in an 83-76 loss to the Liberty on Sunday.

The Dream did get a bit of good news as head coach Michael Cooper returned to the Atlanta bench after missing five games while seeking treatment for early stage tongue cancer. Assistant coach Karleen Thompson told the media following Sunday's game that Cooper was still limited in what he could do but that he would travel with the team on the upcoming road trip.

Atlanta has already clinched a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference and is closing in on their first ever regular season crown. Still they appear to have lost their edge that they played with early on in the season. Tuesday's game may not mean much in the grand scheme of things but it could serve as a potential Finals preview for later this fall.

Game Info

Game Date/Time: Tuesday, August 5, 10 p.m. ET

Location: US Airways Center, Phoenix, Arizona

TV: None

Streaming: WNBA Live Access