Dream 100, Liberty 74
Angel McCoughtry knew the Atlanta Dream couldn't afford another slow start to the season.
The Dream dropped their first three games and nine of their first 12 last season before advancing to the WNBA finals for the second straight year.
This season, McCoughtry believes Atlanta's uptempo transition game and quick halfcourt pace won't allow the Dream to be sluggish very long.
''We're a running team,'' McCoughtry said. ''We're athletic. Once we get on a roll, I think we'll be unstoppable."
McCoughtry scored 23 points, Lindsey Harding added 19 and the Atlanta Dream won their home opener, 100-74 over the New York Liberty on Friday night.
Cappie Pondexter scored 18 points and Essence Carson had 15 for New York (0-4). The Liberty have opened the season with four losses for the first time since 2006, when they also began 0-4 en route to a franchise-worst 11-23 record.
''To be honest, tonight might have been one of the worst performances of my career, but I am staying positive,'' Pondexter said. ''I am upset inside and I need to do a personal assessment, but we have two days off to come back with a new mindset.''
Plenette Pierson's layup pulled New York to 37-29 with 3:29 left in the second quarter. McCoughtry followed with a 19-footer on the ensuing possession, and the Dream (1-1) led by double digits the rest of the way.
Liberty coach John Whisenant yelled from the bench in the final seconds of the second quarter to avoid fouling McCoughtry, who drove the lane and dished off to center Yelena Leuchanka for a layup and a 48-33 lead.
''We've got to get our defense up,'' Whisenant said. ''We couldn't guard the ball tonight. They broke us down. Angel and Lindsey are very hard to guard 1-on-1, and they just got to the basket and we couldn't contain them defensively.''
Atlanta outscored New York 46-30 in the paint, 24-7 on second-chance points and handed out 26 assists to the Liberty's 18.
Dream coach Marynell Meadors credited Leuchanka and forward Sancho Lyttle with setting a tough tone on the boards by pulling down a combined 12 rebounds.
''I thought our post players did very well,'' Meadors said. ''They did a good job of rebounding, a good job of hitting the outlet passes and we were rolling. We're a pretty quick team.''
Atlanta also got a lift on the perimeter from guard Laurie Koehn, who finished with nine points on three 3-pointers.
''That's what she does,'' Meadors said. ''Give her an inch, and she's going to put it in. It's like shooting a layup for her.''
Harding believes everyone in the locker room has bought in to Meadors' insistence on pushing a fast tempo to wear down opponents.
In a 3:30 span of the third quarter, Harding and McCoughtry combined for three steals, one rebound, four free throws, a fastbreak layup, a turnover and a 20-foot jumper as Atlanta's lead improved to 69-51.
''Our motto is run with the Dream, and that's something we do very well,'' Harding said. ''We create a lot of offense off of our defense. If we can get rebounds, if we can get stops and we can get steals, we can get easy transition points because we have some of the fastest people in the league on this team.''
When Atlanta lost 92-84 at Indiana last week, the Dream failed to involve their front-line teammates enough. With the Fever visiting Philips Arena on Sunday, McCoughtry hopes her team has more than one way to attack offensively.
''We definitely needed to get the ball inside,'' McCoughtry said. ''We didn't do that against Indiana in the game we lost, so we really stressed that tonight. Honestly, that's how you have to play basketball - inside out. You look at the old school games, they play inside out.''