By DEITRA P. JOHNSON (ADW Sports Editor)
For the second consecutive game, the Atlanta Dream’s Angel McCoughtry didn’t start in her usual forward position against the New York Liberty on Aug. 2. Instead she was kept on the bench until the 2:48 mark in the first quarter, only to hit seven straight points once inserted, on her way to a 24-point performance.
For whatever reason, McCoughtry’s absence at tipoff time against New York was a seemingly good strategy – what some could construe as more of a motivational move by Atlanta’s coaching staff – and understandably so.
But Atlanta coach Marynell Meadors was reluctant to comment further other than saying: “Angel off the bench was just a coach’s decision.”
Two days earlier McCoughtry was sidelined for most of the first quarter due to a pre-game illness, only to come off the bench to explode for 36 points – despite a 99-92 loss against league rivals, the Connecticut Sun.
McCoughtry’s recovery against the Sun was no doubt miraculous. She scored 19 of those 36 points in the fourth quarter against a tough squad after being scratched from the starting lineup and not appearing until 3:15 in the first quarter.
“It’s one of those things, you just don’t feel well,” McCoughtry said afterward, “but once you start playing, the jitters go away…the bug goes away.”
But despite McCoughtry’s efforts, New York was able to hand the Dream their second straight loss by connecting with precision from 3-point range while controlling the boards for an 85-75 win.
The Liberty hit on 11-of-19 3-pointers, including four from Leilani Mitchell in the fourth quarter, to stage the victory.
New York also out-rebounded the Dream 36-29.
Atlanta (8-11) dropped its second straight game after winning the previous five.
Pienette Pierson led the Liberty with 20 points, 15 of them coming in the first half.
Up On Court In July
McCoughtry’s output against the Sun was just another in a string of stellar performances. She was recently named the WNBA’s Eastern Conference Player of the Week for two separate weeks during the month of July. The first was for games played July 18 through July 21 in which she tied for first in scoring (24.0) and first in steals (2.1), while leading the Dream to back-to-back victories and a 2-0 record.
On Aug. 1, McCoughtry was again named the WNBA’s Eastern Conference Player of the Week, this time for games played on from July 26 through July 31, after leading the league in scoring with 31.7 points per game. The Univ. of Louisville standout also averaged 6.3 rebounds, 3.7 assistant and 2.0 steals per game during that same period.
Most recently, her 36 points against the Sun were among her 128 points in four consecutive games, as McCoughtry turned up the heat just before the WNBA All-Star break by scoring 30-plus points in three of the last six games.
McCoughtry began with 33 points against Washington on July 20, three days before the 2011 All-Star Game in San Antonio. She then tallied a season-high 37 points to go along with four rebounds and three steals in a 76-68 road win over the Tulsa Shock on July 26.
Against the Shock, the 6-foot-1 forward hit on 11-for-22 shots from the field and had a 15-for-19 showing from the free throw line.
McCoughtry then closed the week by converting 14-of-27 shots and 7-of-9 free throws against Connecticut. In between, McCoughtry put together a double-double – 22 points and 11 rebounds – in an 89-80 win over the visiting Los Angeles Sparks.
For the season, McCoughtry ranks second in the league in scoring (19.8 point per game), trailing only to Phoenix’s Diana Taurasi (20.2 point per game).