By DEITRA P. JOHNSON (ADW Sports Editor)
The Atlanta Dream broke a two-game losing streak behind a balanced scoring attack, nipping the Chicago Sky, 71-69, on June 21 at Philips Arena.
Angel McCoughtry led the Dream with 14 points while three other Dream players finished in double figures. Center Erika DeSouza had 12 points, and guards Lindsey Harding and Iziane Castro Marques contributed 11 and 10 points respectively.
In the seesaw contest, DeSouza gave the Dream the lead for good, 67-66, with a turnaround jumper at the 1:32 mark in the fourth quarter.
Chicago’s Sylvia Fowles led all scorers with 21 points, setting a franchise record by scoring 20 or more points in her fifth consecutive game.
Atlanta’s win comes after the team dropped two consecutive games to the Minnesota Lynx, who featured rookie Maya Moore, a Georgia native. The first loss to the Lynx came on June 17 in Minneapolis, while the second came two days later in a 77-64 battle that saw the Dream shoot just 30 percent from the field.
“We had open looks and we could not get it to fall,” said Atlanta coach Marynell Meadors.
It has been apparent that Atlanta, now 2-4, can attribute some of its early woes to an inconsistent roster. The Dream first lost its leading scorer, McCoughtry, to injury the first two games. Then they were strapped by an ailing Castro Marques during the second game against Minnesota, who played just 13 minutes and scored only two points. Castro Marques averages 10.4 points per game.
Against Chicago, the Dream were forced to play their third game without second-leading scorer and rebounder Sancho Lyttle, who is committed to competing in the Olympic qualifying tournament in Spain. Lyttle will miss a total of six games and is expected to return to action on July 9. And reserve center Yelena Leuchanka has not yet rejoined the team, although she is expected to do so after completing her commitment to the Belarus nationals.
On a positive note, the team signed Courtney Paris on June 18, a University of Oklahoma standout and 2009 WNBA draft pick, to fill the gap in Lyttle’s absence.
Paris finished with nine points and eight rebounds to help Atlanta defeat Chicago. She also scored seven points in almost 14 minutes of play against Minnesota one day after being acquired, despite the lack of team familiarity.
“Courtney Paris came in and played outstanding for us. She had 30 minutes to learn our system in practice yesterday,” Meadors commented following the her performance against the Lynx.
In a homecoming of sorts, Moore, a graduate of Collins Hill High School in Gwinnett County, returned to Georgia on June 19 for her first game since joining the WNBA and the Lynx as the 2011 top draft pick. Moore also helped lead the University of Connecticut to a 2009 undefeated national championship and the women’s Final Four in 2010.
“It was a great day…. I saw a bunch of people I knew that were here,” Moore said of her homecoming. “A lot of players from my former AAU team, the Georgia Metro, were here. So I wanted to reach out to them and say ‘thank you for coming.'”
Moore finished with 12 points and eight rebounds.