Dream face tall task against Lynx (Jul 27, 2017)
The Atlanta Dream is coming off the type of win -- a back-and-forth, come-from-behind overtime victory over the Phoenix Mercury on Tuesday -- that can spark a late-season surge.
Following it up with an upset of the powerful Minnesota Lynx in Atlanta on Friday would certainly get the league's attention.
The Lynx own the best record in the WNBA at 17-2 and have won four straight games. Guard Lindsay Whalen hit a double-clutch, turnaround jumper to help Minnesota pull out a 76-75 win over the New York Liberty on Tuesday.
"We were fortunate to win the game," Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve told reporters after the hard-fought victory.
The Dream (10-11) also got clutch play from their backcourt in the thrilling win over Phoenix. Atlanta trailed by as many as 18 points in the first half before rookie guard Brittany Sykes fueled a second-half rally.
Sykes finished with 20 points, including a layup with two seconds left to force overtime.
"She's a scorer; we utilized her ability to get to the basket," Dream coach Michael Cooper said. "I don't look at her as the rookie anymore. I look at her like a very good veteran. She's a confident young lady who could easily average between 20 and 25 points."
It was the third straight 20-point performance for Sykes, who is averaging 18.2 points since joining the starting lineup June 30.
Veteran point guard Layshia Clarendon also had a big game for the Dream, finishing with 15 points, nine assists and 10 rebounds. She was initially credited with 11 assists, which would have made her the sixth player in WNBA history to record a triple-double. However, after a league review, two of Clarendon's assists were rescinded due to a stat-keeper error.
While Cooper has praised his backcourt, he has been most pleased with the team's defense.
"One thing we're good at this year, as good as any team since I've been with the Dream, is our defense from sideline to sideline," Cooper said. "We're able to scramble, get to shooters, and get out there and contest shots."
The high-scoring Lynx, led by Whalen and Maya Moore, will test that defense. Minnesota has beaten the Dream six straight times and in nine out of the last 10 meetings overall.