Washington coach Mike Thibault sat his team down prior to its home-and-home series with Atlanta and detailed explicitly how the Dream beat the Mystics in last season’s playoffs by dominating the boards.
What he saw in the first game must’ve seemed like deja vu.
The Eastern Conference-leading Dream look to sweep visiting Washington and win their fifth straight overall Wednesday.
The Mystics shocked Atlanta in Game 1 of the best-of-three East semifinals, but were outrebounded by 38 while dropping the final two games of the set.
Thibault tried to remind his club of that prior to Sunday’s contest, but Atlanta (7-3) won the board battle 41-30, held a 17-4 edge in offensive rebounds and an 18-0 advantage in second-chance points en route to a 75-67 win.
”That’s our strength. We’re No. 1 in offensive rebounding in this league,” said Dream coach Michael Cooper, whose team also leads the WNBA with a plus-3.70 average rebounding margin. ”Championships are won with good defense and good rebounding. I thought we did that right when we really needed it.”
Not only did the Mystics fail to heed their coach’s advice, their 21 turnovers led to 21 Atlanta points.
”They beat us last year in the playoffs. Coach came in here and said how did they beat us? Rebounding,” said guard Ivory Latta, who scored 12 points but went 4 of 13 from the field. ”So we should take this hard.”
Monique Currie had a solid performance, shooting 5 for 10 and scoring 11 points. Thibault, though, saw many of the same issues that have been bothering him.
"Well, I’m really excited about playing them again Wednesday," Thibault said sarcastically. "It comes down to things that have cost us games in the past – turnovers and offensive rebounding. It’s hard when the other team has so many more possessions because of the turnovers. And the boards killed us."
The Mystics (5-6) have lost four of five and are beginning a four-game road trip. After facing the defending East champion Dream, they’ll take on WNBA champion Minnesota on Friday before stops in Seattle and San Antonio.
"Hopefully we can fix it on our road trip," Thibault said. "These are hard games. I’m hoping (Sunday) was a one-off with the rebounding problem, and it better be because Wednesday is going to get here quickly."
Atlanta will be looking to extend its winning streak after another solid effort. Erika de Souza and Angel McCoughtry scored 16 points apiece, Sancho Lyttle added 15 and Tiffany Hayes finished with 14.
Three victories during the Dream’s winning streak have come by at least eight points, and they enter this contest on a four-game home winning streak.
The Mystics are tied for the fewest road games played in the league, going 2-1.