Originally posted on Fox Sports South  |  By STEVE EUBANKS  |  Last updated 8/28/13
ATLANTA -- Often sloppy, always physical, and occasionally inspiring, the Atlanta Dream lost an overtime heartbreaker 85-80 at home to the Washington Mystics on Wednesday night. It was the team's third loss in a row and the second consecutive loss at home after amassing a league-best 11-1 home record through the middle of August. In the process, Atlanta might have seen its hopes for the Eastern Conference title go down in a pile with team leader Angel McCoughtry, who rolled her right ankle after colliding with Mystics forward Monique Currie during a Dream fast break early in the overtime period. Leading all scorers at the time with 23 points, McCoughtry was unable to put any weight on her right foot as she was carried from the floor. After that, the game was all but over. Already playing short-handed with guard Tiffany Hayes out after undergoing surgery for a torn meniscus and veteran guard Armintie Herrington out with a concussion suffered in the Dream's previous home loss to Chicago, the McCoughtry injury had Dream head coach Fred Williams shaking his head. "People who don't get a lot of time are going to have to come in as pros everyday and step up," Williams said. "We always spend time making sure the players who dont get a lot of time get their workouts in, because you never know when they're going to be called on for minutes. This is that time." The extent of McCoughtry's injury was not immediately known after the game -- "They're going to ice it up and have it x-rayed and stuff," Williams said -- but with the team in the midst of a downward slide, losing their leader for more than a few minutes could be devastating. McCoughtry and guard Jasmine Thomas carried the Dream on both ends of the floor through most of Wednesday nights game with McCoughtry grabbing six rebounds and earning three assists while Thomas scored 14 points and had five assists. "Jasmine was really on rhythm tonight," Williams said. "She was really able to turn the corner, get some shots and did a good job for us." Unfortunately, it was not good enough. The game offered a little bit of everything, including more collisions than Roller Derby. There were three Washington technical fouls -- one on point guard Ivory Latta at the end of the first half for saying more to official Mike Price than he wanted to hear, one on Monique Currie for an inadvertent elbow to the face (a violation of the "flail rule" that prohibits any contact above the shoulders) and one in the third quarter on Kia Vaughn for trash talk. "Hey, you want your leaders to step up and let it be known that you're not going to back down from anything," said Washington head coach Mike Thibault. Then Thibault shook his head and said, "Obviously that was a crazy game. I don't know if anybody got control of it." The Dream seemed to have control throughout most of the second half, stretching the lead to seven points on two different occasions. But the Mystics kept coming back due to their scrappy defense. Still, the Dream led by three points with 13 second remaining in regulation after Alex Bentley hit two critical free throws. Fans thought it was over at that point, but Thibault knew his team had a chance. "We've been kidding Monique Currie lately about hitting a couple of shots where her toe was on the (three-point) line," he said. When Currie got the ball near the left hash with six seconds remaining, Thibault ran down the sideline to make sure she was behind the line. Curries three sent the game into overtime tied at 76. After the Mystics got the opening tip and scored an easy layup, the Dream never caught up. "We're decent at the end," said Thibault, who is in his first year with Washington. That is an understatement. The Mystics, known for being scrappy and hard-nosed under their new head coach, are 8-3 in games decided by five points or less. "Sometimes, it's a hard team to figure out," Thibault said. "But we're learning a bit at a time." For the Dream the dog days of summer are grim. Once the winningest team in the league with a 10-1 overall record at the end of June and the best home record through mid-August, those streaks seemed like ancient history on Wednesday night. Atlanta had hoped to erase the memory of an ugly 11-point home loss to Chicago in their last start -- a game where the team shot a franchise low 28.6 percent and scored only 56 points, another inglorious record. They shot better on Wednesday, finishing the night with a 41 percent average from the floor and 77 percent from the free throw line. But 16 turnovers, six coming late in the fourth quarter, killed their chances of putting this one away. "We just have to do a better job of protecting the ball and stop turning it over," Williams said. "That's all there is to it." That and get healthy. At full strength, the Dream are one of the best teams in the WNBA. Without their stars, this team will be lucky to limp through the rest of the year.
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