Dream beat Fever in OT to secure playoff berth
Angel McCoughtry told coach Fred Williams during a late timeout that she was about to give the Atlanta Dream a big lift.
McCoughtry did just that, stealing the ball from Indiana on consecutive possessions in overtime and hitting layups that gave the Dream an eight-point lead with 1:04 remaining.
''She said, `I'm going to step it up,' and she made some plays for us,'' Williams said.
McCoughtry scored 30 points and Erika de Souza added 17 points and 14 rebounds to help the Dream clinch a playoff spot with an 89-80 overtime victory over the Indiana Fever on Wednesday night.
Tamika Catchings finished with 22 points and Erlana Larkins had 10 points and a career-high 17 rebounds for Indiana (13-16), which has lost five of six.
McCoughtry, the WNBA's scoring leader, added nine rebounds, eight assists and three steals for the Dream (16-13), who have won two straight after dropping 12 of 17.
McCoughtry had 11 points, four rebounds, one assist, two steals and one blocked shot during the fourth quarter and overtime.
Helping Atlanta reach the playoffs for the fifth straight year made McCoughtry proud.
''We just want to get there (playoffs) and get everyone healthy,'' she said.
The Dream never trailed after McCoughtry and Armintie Herrington combined for a steal that led to McCoughtry assisting on a fastbreak layup by de Souza that made it 79-77 with 3:09 left in overtime.
''My teammates got three steals in a row,'' McCoughtry said, ''but Armentie's steal was the turning point because they were on their way to getting the lead.''
Herrington scored 13 points for Atlanta, which outscored Indiana 22-12 on the break.
De Souza's putback with 15.6 seconds left in the fourth quarter made it 76-all.
Both teams missed a chance on their last possession of regulation. Christmas was called for charging and McCoughtry's 3-point attempt at the buzzer bounced off the rim.
''They came out and jumped on us, and we fought hard,'' Larkins said. ''So when I saw overtime, of course it was a little exhausting for the mind, but I said let's kept pushing, it's only five minutes.''
There were seven lead changes in the fourth quarter and neither team was up by more than two after Breland's short jumper at the 9:02 mark.
''I thought we needed to win the ball game in regulation, but going into overtime - as far as the fatigue- this would really hurt us,'' Indiana coach Lin Dunn said. ''And it did, but we had a chance to win in regulation.''
The WNBA defending champion Fever are trying to make the playoffs for the ninth straight year. Five of their 12 turnovers were in overtime.
Catchings missed her first six shots before her 19-footer in the final minute of the second quarter cut Atlanta's lead to five. The basket made Catchings the eighth WNBA player with at least 2,000 career field goals.
The Fever were without starting point guard Briann January, who stayed in Indiana to recover from an illness. Injuries have affected the Fever all season, particularly with Jessica Davenport missing 29 games and Katie Douglas missing 26.
Erin Phillips, who started in January's spot, had eight points and two assists, but she did not return after Herrington poked her in the right eye early in the fourth quarter.
''We did everything we could do to win, so I'm very proud of our players,'' Dunn said. ''I thought we battled against a really good team. Hopefully the next time we play Atlanta, we'll be at full speed.''
Shavonte Zellous had 15 points for the Fever.