The Atlanta Dream dropped their second straight game Friday night and fell to the .500 mark for the season with a 78-72 loss to the Indiana Fever.
Things started well enough for Atlanta who jumped out to a 20-9 lead at the end of the first quarter. Indiana battled back in the second and the Dream entered the half with a slim 34-32 lead.
Atlanta tied the game 57-57 to start the fourth before the Fever scored nine straight points as part of a 15-4 run to take a 72-61 lead with 4:42 remaining. Atlanta would narrow the deficit back to six but Indiana never lost control and came away with the victory.
"It was a well, played game by both teams, in the first half," Dream head coach Michael Cooper said. "I thought we accomplished everything that we wanted to do to stay in the game. But again, when the intensity level went up on the defensive end and offensive end and they started running, we weren’t able to sustain. For whatever reason that is, it doesn’t help when your three top players, Sancho Lyttle gets injured, Tiffany Hayes and Angel McCoughtry in foul trouble."
Lyttle left the game late in the second quarter with an ankle injury and did not return. McCoughtry picked up her fifth foul in the third and fouled out of the game with 4:55 remaining in regulation. She finished with 10 points and six assists but was just 5 for 15 from the field with six turnovers.
"We have to continue to play hard," McCoughtry told reporters after the game. "I think we played a better effort tonight than the last game in New York. We just gotta finish games off. I think I didn’t get that call in the end because we complain too much. We have reputation of being a complaining team and we have to just play through the heat, like other teams play through. If we play through the heat, we can win these games."
Hayes played just 21 minutes before fouling out and finished with just four points. Carla Cortijo was the lone bright spot offensively finishing with a career-best 20 points on 8 of 10 shooting.
Atlanta began the season with a 6-1 start but haven’t been able to get back to that level or consistency.
"I just think our ability… When the game gets up on another level, we’re not able to rise to the occasion," Cooper said. "Whatever reason that is, is it a coaching situation? A player? I think it’s a little bit of both. Somehow we have to figure it out. But the thing about it is, we haven’t played good basketball and solidly at 11-11, we’re in fourth place."
Atlanta’s defense hasn’t been at the same level as during their 6-1 start. Teams have been able to keep the Dream off of the free throw line of late and Atlanta is just 1-8 on the season when they have less free throw attempts than their opponents.
"When it’s easy, everybody’s up," McCoughtry said. "It’s fine. True champions, they’ll rise through the adversity. It’s like when we get hit with adversity, we just hold our shoulders down. We have to snap out of that. Until we snap out of that as a team, we won’t win many games."