The Atlanta Dream can focus on being rested and ready for the playoffs now that they’ve secured the top seed in the Eastern Conference for the first time in franchise history.
A date with the lowly Tulsa Shock might help them build a winning streak along the way.
The Dream could choose to rest leading scorer Angel McCoughtry as they try to win consecutive games for the first time this month Friday night against the visiting Shock.
Even though McCoughtry (19.0 points per game) missed her second straight contest due to tendinitis in her feet, Atlanta (18-14) snapped a five-game losing streak with Wednesday’s 96-82 home win over Phoenix.
Shoni Schimmel stepped up with a season-high 24 points while Tiffany Hayes scored 19 and Aneika Henry added 15 with 12 rebounds against the league-best Mercury, who rested Diana Taurasi and Penny Taylor.
Atlanta put up its third-highest point total of the season after it had averaged 71.4 points during its longest losing streak since a 10-game skid in 2008.
”I knew it was just a matter of time before it came together,” Hayes said. ”Coach (Michael Cooper) had a talk with the team and told the bench players that we need everyone. It can’t be five or six people.”
The Dream have dropped nine of 12 and haven’t won back-to-back contests since beating Connecticut and Tulsa on July 26 and 29. After facing the Shock (12-20) at home, they’ll travel to take on the last-place Sun in Sunday’s finale.
Hayes finished with a career-high 27 points and shot 9 of 12 in an 85-75 victory at Tulsa on July 31. McCoughtry scored 21 but committed 11 turnovers, while Erika de Souza contributed 18 points and 12 rebounds.
Though they’ve qualified for the playoffs for six straight seasons, the Dream will enter this postseason as the No. 1 seed for the first time in team history. They could decide to sit McCoughtry in the final two games as they prepare to make another run at their first league title after reaching the WNBA Finals in three of the past four seasons.
Tulsa, the only West team eliminated from the playoffs, fell into a tie for last place with Seattle when its two-game winning streak ended in a 74-68 road loss to the Storm on Sunday.
”For us, this has been the problem all year, we have to finish games," All-Star guard Skylar Diggins said after the Shock were outscored 21-14 in the fourth quarter.
Diggins finished with 23 points while Courtney Paris had 11 points and 14 rebounds.
Glory Johnson has two more chances to break Cheryl Ford’s single-season Shock record with her 18th double-double.
Teammate Odyssey Sims had 10 points Sunday while battling a shoulder injury. The rookie of the year candidate had averaged 24.6 over her previous eight, including a 22-point effort against the Dream.