The Atlanta Dream are still in position for a playoff berth, but they will likely need to get past a tumultuous week that has included a suspension to WNBA scoring leader Angel McCoughtry to hang on to that spot.
The Dream will try to put aside those woes during Thursday night's visit from the last-place Washington Mystics.
After putting up a lackluster record following consecutive trips to the WNBA finals, Atlanta (12-13) fired coach/general manager Marynell Meadors on Monday and replaced her with assistant Fred Williams.
One of Williams' first acts was to suspend McCoughtry indefinitely for breaking an undisclosed team rule. The U.S. Olympian, who is averaging a career-high 22.2 points, missed a pair of games last week due to personal reasons and criticized Meadors' game plan after an 84-74 loss to Minnesota on Saturday.
McCoughtry did not start that game due to fatigue in her legs and scored 14 points in 20 minutes.
With its top scorer missing, Atlanta suffered an 84-80 loss Tuesday to lowly Tulsa, which had dropped 13 straight on the road dating to last season. The Dream had six players score in double figures during Williams' debut, led by Erika de Souza's 16 points, but an 11-point third quarter helped put them behind for good.
"I told the young ladies that we've got to finish out the game and play a good, solid four quarters of basketball," Williams said. "Some of the focus was distracted a little bit tonight, but they still played through it and made some things happen for us."
Williams met with McCoughtry on Wednesday and gave her a written list of requirements that she must sign and comply with before he would think about reinstatement.
"I spoke with her briefly today, and we laid out some things on paper," Williams said. "Until the terms we laid out are agreed upon and signed, sealed and met, she is still suspended."
Even with McCoughtry unavailable, a matchup with the Mystics (5-19) would appear to provide Atlanta a promising opportunity to generate some positivity.
The Dream, who are in third place in the Eastern Conference and 2 1/2 games up on Chicago and New York, got by without McCoughtry during an 81-69 win at Washington on Friday. Armintie Price paced six players in double figures with 19 points.
"They still have a very great team (without McCoughtry), a talented team and an experienced team," coach Trudi Lacey said after that loss. "I just didn't think we were mentally prepared."
Washington is 1-5 since returning from the Olympic break and has lost four straight on the road, including 83-68 to Indiana on Tuesday. Reserves Noelle Quinn (13 points) and Lindsay Wisdom-Hylton (10) were the Mystics' only players in double figures.
This is the first of three meetings between these teams over the next two weeks.