Angel McCoughtry realizes she may have to play through some knee pain. How her injury responds to the Atlanta Dream's lengthy stretch on the road may play a key role in determining their success over the next eight games.
The WNBA's leading scorer and the Dream open a challenging portion of their schedule Friday night when they visit the Tulsa Shock.
After Atlanta (6-7) lost the two games she missed due to the knee injury, McCoughtry has returned to lead the Dream to back-to-back wins and was the game's top scorer in both.
However, it hasn't been easy. McCoughtry shot 7 of 20 against New York last Sunday, scoring 23 points, and she went without a point in the first quarter Tuesday as the Dream came back for a 70-58 victory over Indiana.
McCoughtry finished that game 6 of 14 from the field for 22 points. With Atlanta leading big, the Dream were able to get her some rest in the fourth quarter as she played just 4:28.
"It takes a little time to recover, but it's getting there," said McCoughtry, averaging 22.6 points. "I just want to get my explosiveness back and things like that so I can get up and down the floor. I look like grandma out there a little bit."
McCoughtry's recovery could be hindered by a tough stretch in Atlanta's schedule. The Dream play their next eight games on the road, with a break after the sixth game for the London Olympics. Atlanta is 1-3 away from home.
Coming off consecutive victories for the first time this season, the Dream will try to extend their modest winning streak against the WNBA-worst Shock (2-11).
However, after losing nine straight to open the season, Tulsa has won two of its last four, including a 91-75 victory over Los Angeles on Tuesday.
Rookie Riquna Williams scored a season-high 27 points and Ivory Latta added 21 along with eight assists. The Shock led 23-12 at the end of the first quarter and had a double-digit advantage most of the way.
"Tonight was very rewarding after some tough games we've been through," coach Gary Kloppenburg said. "We wanted to get physical and give them some resistance from the start of the game, and our players followed the plan all night."
Improved defense has been a key lately for the Shock, who are giving up 82.1 points per game - second-most in the WNBA. Tulsa has held three of its last four opponents to 75 or fewer points. It forced 24 turnovers in the win over the Sparks and 25 in the previous victory against Phoenix.
Atlanta has won four straight in this series since losing to the Shock in the 2009 playoffs.