Dream 73, Mystics 63
Angel McCoughtry led Atlanta into postseason play the previous two seasons after overcoming slow starts for the opportunity. The Dream don't have to worry about that hurdle this year.
McCoughtry scored 12 of her 15 points in the second half and Erika de Souza had 14 as undefeated Atlanta kept up its dominance over the Washington Mystics with a 73-63 win on Sunday.
Sancho Lyttle had 12 points and Armintie Herrington 11 for the Dream (3-0), who overcame 20 turnovers for their sixth straight victory over the Mystics (1-1).
McCoughtry, the WNBA scoring champion last season, missed her first five attempts from the floor and finished 4 of 13 overall, but had seven points in the fourth quarter.
After having its 17-point lead trimmed to 54-48 after three quarters, Atlanta opened the fourth with a 10-0 spurt, including a layup and free throw from McCoughtry.
''We really picked it up with getting in the passing lanes, getting a lot of run outs, exercise our transition game,'' Dream coach Fred Williams said after his team had 16 steals. ''That third quarter, we really threw some bad passes and they turned into points for them, helped get them back in it. But, I was really pleased with our composure, sustaining the lead and getting some big baskets. I told McCoughtry to step it up and she did.''
Crystal Langhorne led the Mystics with 15 points and Ivory Latta had 14. Washington committed 21 turnovers, leading to 24 points for Atlanta.
''You can't come out and play like that against a team like Atlanta that lives off of turnovers,'' Langhorne said.
Tiffany Hayes scored 10 points for the Dream, off to their best start since winning six straight to open the 2010 season.
Atlanta opened 4-7 last season, an actual improvement over the 3-9 start to the 2011 campaign. McCoughtry credits this year's record to a deeper roster, which includes ex-Mystic Jasmine Thomas, who had five of her seven points in the fourth quarter. Herrington had five steals off the bench.
''We're so talented all the way down to the end of our bench,'' said McCoughtry, who led Atlanta with five assists and six turnovers.
Trailing by 13 at halftime and 45-28 in the third quarter, the Mystics went on a 16-3 run. Langhorne had consecutive field goals as Washington trailed 48-44, but it would not get closer.
McCoughtry's first basket came on a 3-pointer with 4:16 remaining in the third quarter. She finished 6 of 7 from the free throw line and Atlanta made 16 of 20 attempts. Washington made 9 of 10, but its first free throw did not come until 4:02 remained in the third quarter.
Both teams shot 39.1 percent from the field, but the Dream had 20 assists on its 27 baskets.
''We were just playing and trying to get our rhythm,'' McCoughtry said of the slow start. ''We'll get it, it's early.''
The Mystics have split their first two games for the third straight season. The previous two years they finished with six and five wins, respectively.
After ending last season at 5-29 with a franchise-record 13 straight losses, Washington hired former Connecticut coach Mike Thibault as its coach and general manager. Thibault directed the Mystics to a 95-90 overtime victory at Tulsa in the season opener last Monday.
On Sunday, the Mystics reverted to old habits. Besides the turnovers and free throw discrepancy, they lost the rebounding battle 40-34. The Dream turned 16 offensive boards into 19 points.
''The three things we've talked about to try to improve this team for the long haul, we lost all three today,'' Thibault said.
Washington committed 10 turnovers in the opening quarter and finished the first half with more turnovers (14) than field goals (13).
Using a lineup featuring three rookies brought the Mystics closer at 30-24, but the Dream scored nine points in 90 seconds and led 39-26 at halftime.
''Watching the first quarter, it was hard to believe considering what the scouting report is and what you have to do to play against them,'' Thibault said. ''Maybe the only way you become believers is to actually go through the experience. You would think with having seven veteran players from the league that we'd be better about that, but we obviously weren't.''