Mercury-Dream Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated September 07, 2013
Having recovered from their mid-season slumps, the Atlanta Dream and Phoenix Mercury are aiming to lock down playoff seeds. The Dream can clinch the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference with their fourth straight victory Sunday while the visiting Mercury look to sweep this season series for the second time in three years. This contest also features the WNBA's top two scorers in Atlanta's Angel McCoughtry (21.7 ppg) and Phoenix's Diana Taurasi (20.8). Atlanta (17-13) leads Washington and Indiana by three games with four remaining in the fight for home-court advantage in the opening round of the playoffs. Since the Dream won the season series with both of those teams, they can wrap up second place with a win or losses by both the Mystics and Fever. "It's really important to finish up strong, just to get that momentum for the playoffs and keep the No. 2 spot," McCoughtry said. "We just want to get that confidence going in." Phoenix (16-13) sits in third place in the West and has a 1 1/2-game lead over fourth-place Seattle with a game in hand. Avoiding the No. 4 seed likely means the Mercury wouldn't have to face league-best Minnesota in the opening round. They've lost all five meetings with the Lynx and have a 2-1 season series lead over current No. 2 seed Los Angeles. Following a stretch in which they dropped seven of nine, Phoenix has regrouped with a 6-2 record under interim coach Russ Pennell after eliminating San Antonio in Friday's 83-80 victory. "But we can't relax because now at this point we are competing for the third or fourth seed," said Candice Dupree, who had 18 points and is averaging 19.3 over her last four games. "We got to stay on it." Taurasi scored 21, going 5 for 10 from the field, after totaling 26 on 6-of-20 shooting in the previous two games. Brittney Griner had 12 of her 16 points in the second half and grabbed a season-high 14 rebounds. The No. 1 overall pick in this year's draft had averaged 10.7 points in August - her lowest-scoring month of the season. Griner was held to nine points in an 82-76 victory over visiting Atlanta on Aug. 3 as Taurasi led the way with 28 points and DeWanna Bonner added 23. McCoughtry had 33 points that day despite missing 18 of 30 attempts and added eight assists. The All-Star was limited to 16 points for the second time in three games Friday and shot 5 for 17, but the Dream won 70-57 at New York. Erika de Souza had her second straight double-double with 12 points and 14 rebounds. She's averaging 18.7 and 11.7, respectively, over her last three games. Injuries derailed the Dream during a 4-12 stretch in July and August, but they've gotten back on track with three straight wins this month. Armintie Herrington and Tiffany Hayes appear to have recovered from their injuries, though Sancho Lyttle might not be back until the postseason after undergoing foot surgery in July. This is the Dream's final home game before wrapping up the regular season with three straight on the road, where they've lost nine of 10.
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