Coming into this afternoon’s game between the Connecticut Sun and the Atlanta Dream, it looked like two trains, both headed in the wrong direction. True, Atlanta was in first place—the only team in the WNBA East Division with a winning record at 15-9. And the Dream featured a lineup that included the likes of annual All-Star Angel McCoughtry, Brazillian stars Sancho Lyttle and Erika DeSouza, former UConn star Tiffany Hayes and Louisville’s Shoni Schimmel, perhaps the leading candidate for Rookie of the Year. But going into the game, the defending East Division champs and 2013 WNBA Finalists had dropped four straight games.
The Sun, meanwhile—a young team showing the wear-and-tear of a long season headed down the stretch—had lost three straight, and seven of their last nine.
In the end, it turned out to be the WNBA version of “age over beauty” as McCoughtry led all scorers with 25 points, and the Dream stopped their for game skein with an 89-80 victory over the Sun before an announced “Kid’s Day” crowd of 4,308 at Philips Arena on Tuesday afternoon. The game was televised nationally on NBA-TV.
Hayes added 23 points, while de Souza added 17 points and Aneika Henry put in 10 for Atlanta. Lyttle scored nine points and pulled down a game-high 14 rebounds for the Dream, who improves to 16-9.
Kelsey Bone led the Sun with a double-double—18 points and 13 rebounds—while rookie Alyssa Thomas added 17 points and Chiney Ogwumike had 16. Katie Douglas added 10 for the last-place Sun, who dropped their fourth straight game and dropped to 10-17.
It was the first win for the Dream under the helm of interim head coach Karleen Douglas, who has been subbing for Atlanta head coach Michael Copper, who is on medical leave after being diagnosed with tongue cancer. “Coop,” the former Los Angeles Laker star, had surgery on July 24 and is expected to return to the sidelines in about two weeks.
Atlanta, which led at halftime by three, 44-41, after the two teams were tied at the first pole, 21-21, won the game in the paint. Besides Lyttle’s 14 boards, McCoughtry hauled down seven rebounds. Overall the Dream out-rebounded Connecticut 41-32. It’s not a coincidence that the Dream were out-rebounded in each of their previous four losses.
After a layup by Hayes put Atlanta up by 10, 73-63, with 7:21 remaining in regulation, the Sun went on an 8-0 run to cut the margin to two, 73-71 with 4:41 remaining. The Dream called timeout, scored the next six points of the game, and never looked back
“We haven’t quite figured out how to impose our will,” said Sun coach Anne Donovan. “[Tiffany] Hayes is the one that really got away from us today, and their experience in the post is tough for our post players.”
The Sun, who now trail the Dream by seven games and are 1.5 games behind fourth-place New York for the last playoff spot in the East Conference, have dropped eight of their past 10 games, and now must prepare to head West to face the San Antonio Stars on Friday night at 8 p.m., and the Los Angeles Sparks for the second showdown between the Ogwumike sisters on Sunday at 3:30 p.m. Both games will be televised on CPTV Sports and NBA-TV, and will be streamed live on WNBA LiveAccess.