DULUTH, Ga. (AP) — Nothing has come easily for Angel McCoughtry and the Atlanta Dream against the Minnesota Lynx.
Game 3 of the WNBA finals could be just as tough.
Minnesota, which won each of the first two games by 25 points, might have somewhat of a homecourt advantage when Lynx forward Maya Moore returns Thursday to the Gwinnett Arena.
The Dream were forced to move this elimination game to the northeast suburbs because of an ice skating show at their home court, Philips Arena.
Coach Fred Williams says the Dream’s fans need to counter a homecoming for Moore, who led nearby Collins Hill High School to three consecutive state titles at the Gwinnett Arena from 2005-07.
Williams knows Moore’s local following is substantial, particularly after she helped Connecticut win two straight NCAA championships and was named WNBA rookie of the year as the Lynx took the 2011 league title.
The Dream planned a light workout Wednesday night to help McCoughtry and others get familiar with the new surroundings. Atlanta is 15-5 at Philips Arena this year, 6-15 in other venues.
“Hopefully we’ll get used to the shooting conditions this evening and then again tomorrow morning at the shoot-around,” Williams said. “It’s going to be a little bit of an adjustment, but after we get a feel for the atmosphere, it’s our job to make it our home floor.”
McCoughtry, the WNBA’s two-time defending scoring champion, has averaged just 28 percent from the field in four games against the Lynx this year.
Minnesota’s defense has stifled her attempts to take the ball to the rim, but McCoughtry credits the Lynx with having enough talent and depth to make it difficult for Atlanta to gain momentum on both ends of the floor.
“We don’t want to believe it’s over, but it’s tough playing the Lynx, you know?” McCoughtry said. “They’re so deep. They shoot the ball so well. Let’s hope they don’t shoot so well on our court.”
The WNBA finals have been hard on the Dream, who have dropped to 0-10 in the championship round after losing three straight to Seattle in 2010 and three straight to Minnesota two years ago.
Williams, an Atlanta assistant under Marynell Meadors during the team’s first two finals, used a bigger lineup in Game 2, replacing guard Tiffany Hayes with forward Aneika Henry, but almost nothing went right.
Even though the Lynx committed 20 turnovers, Atlanta was outscored by 16 points in the paint and outrebounded by 18 boards. Minnesota won 88-63.
All five Lynx starters scored in double figures, led by Seimone Augustus’ 20 points and 14 apiece from Moore and Lindsay Whalen.
Minnesota coach Cheryl Reeve, whose team set a finals single-game record by shooting 56.9 percent from the field, insists her team wants to return home with a championship after Game 3.
The Lynx are unbeaten in six playoff games this year.
“We don’t want to have to come back to Minneapolis,” Reeve said. “When we come back to Minneapolis, it’s going to be for a parade, not to play Game 5.”
Williams believes the Dream must not rely too much on McCoughtry if she’s double-teamed on the perimeter most of the game. He doesn’t want her taking desperate shots if another Atlanta player is open.
The coach hopes center Erika de Souza will look for open bank shots from short range, and he’s looking for the Dream to move the ball consistently in halfcourt sets instead of settling for 3-point attempts.
Atlanta is 3 for 25 beyond the arc in the finals.
“We’ve got players besides Angel who are good shooters and know how to take it to the rim — Tiffany Hayes, Armintie Price, Jasmine Thomas, Le’Coe Willingham,” Williams said. “Angel knows she can’t do it by herself.”
It won’t be too easy if Minnesota, which is 13-6 on the road this season, enjoys the added support of Moore’s return to Gwinnett as the Lynx goes for their second title in three years.
“Their team has lot of vets that have been there before,” Williams said. “They have fine passing guard in Whalen. Maya, Augustus and (Rebekkah) Brunson are tough matchups. They’ve got (Janel) McCarville filling up the lane, and Monica Wright coming off the bench. We’re going to have to play smart and efficient and keep our composure.”