CHICAGO — The Atlanta Dream’s three-year stranglehold on the Eastern Conference of the WNBA was in serious jeopardy after choking away a sizable first-half lead — and game 1 — to the Chicago Sky in the 2014 playoffs opening round.
Superstar Angel McCoughtry, looking to avenge herself after a rare, poor 8-22 shooting performance in an 80-77 game 1 loss in Atlanta — crystallized by a 3-point game-winning attempt that fell well short — came out firing like a gunslinger. This time the chamber was full as she made 13-20 shots, knocked down 13 of 14 free throws and finished with a game-high and WNBA playoff high 39 points to power the Dream to a 92-83 win to peel themselves off the wall.
Consistent offensive firebrand Tiffany Hayes added 15 points for top-seeded Atlanta, and Jasmine Thomas had nine points, seven rebounds and six assists.
The conference semi-final series is now tied at 1 game apiece. The Dream’s win forces a series-deciding game 3 back in Atlanta.
The Sky’s standout star Elana Delle Donne finished with 22 points for the game, but she only had 11 the last three quarters after starting on fire for 11 quick points in the opening first half of the first quarter and the Sky leading by as much as 8. Allie Quigley had 20 points, and Epiphanny Prince finished with 19.
In the second quarter, McCoughtry began her surgically-precise shooting exhibition, hitting an array of contested layups and mid-range jumpers — though she was 0-for-2 on 3-pointers — and helped the Dream break open a close game in the 2nd half that was needle-thin at 44-43 at the break in ATL’s favor. The Dream stretched their advantage by as much as 14 points at the end of the 3rd quarter and into the 4th before fighting off the Sky’s brief comeback run to close out the game.
“We were a little down after game 1,” she said. “But this is a lesson to the kids: when you get down, don’t give up. Just keep pushing forward,” McCoughtry told ESPN.
And that’s exactly what McCoughtry and the Dream did — push with relentless abandon. After game 1 where the Dream’s offense was clogged up like a backed up sinking the second half, the team turned Game 2 into a track meet reminiscent of head coach Michael Cooper’s Showtime Lakers of the 1980s.
The Dream destroyed the Sky in fast break points to the tune of a 28-6 advantage, the highlight being point guard Shoni Schimmel’s no-look, behind-the-back pass to McCoughtry for an uncontested layup to help put the game out of reach.
Look for the Dream to try to replicate this impressive feat in fast break opportunities in Phillips Arena on Tuesday evening. The winner faces future Hall of Famer Tameka Catchings and Indiana.