Dream-Liberty Preview

The Atlanta Dream relied on their top scorer and impressive defense to overcome an abysmal offensive performance and stay hot.

Their defense figures to provide a tough challenge Wednesday for the New York Liberty, who continue to struggle to score.

The Dream (15-5) head to Madison Square Garden with a big lead atop the Eastern Conference as its only team above .500. They’re limiting opponents to 74.0 points per game during a 12-2 stretch, and teams are shooting just 41.8 percent against them on the season.

Atlanta won its fourth straight Sunday, 81-79 in overtime versus Chicago despite shooting a season-low 35.4 percent and committing 19 turnovers.

Angel McCoughtry carried the scoring load, matching a season high with 33 points, while Sancho Lyttle had four steals and two blocks along with 12 points and 13 rebounds.

The Dream were coming off a much better offensive showing in a 93-74 win at Indiana on Saturday, when they hit 10 of 18 from 3-point range. Atlanta was 3 of 15 on Sunday.

"We played two teams who are big rivalries," said Lyttle, whose 2.3 steals per game trail only McCoughtry for the league lead. "But it is what it is. We come out to play, win or lose, and we have to play hard. We happened to go into overtime, which stepped it up."

The Liberty (7-13) had recently won four of five to pull back into playoff contention, but they’ve since suffered back-to-back 14-point defeats.

New York has been off since shooting just 38.3 percent in Friday’s 68-54 home loss to Los Angeles, marking the club’s lowest-scoring total since a 70-52 defeat in last season’s finale at Washington.

Tina Charles led the team with 20 points on 10-for-17 shooting. Alex Montgomery was the next-leading scorer with 10.

"You’re not going to beat any team in this league scoring 54 points," Charles said.

The Liberty could have used a healthy Cappie Pondexter, who was 0 for 5 in 18 minutes to go scoreless for the second time this season. Coach Bill Laimbeer said she was injured in last Wednesday’s 80-66 loss at San Antonio, but Pondexter didn’t divulge any details about the extent of the injury.

"We didn’t have the firepower offensive wise. Cappie wasn’t able to go," said Laimbeer, whose club ranks second-to-last in the WNBA with 73.0 points per game. "Our offensive execution was poor and it showed in the stat sheet."

These teams split two earlier meetings with the Dream winning 85-64 in Atlanta on June 20, then the Liberty won 85-78 at MSG two days later. McCoughtry averaged 25.5 points in those contests while Lyttle totaled nine steals.

Charles was limited to 18 total points on 8-for-25 shooting.

Former two-time league MVP Swin Cash scored four points in 13 minutes for New York against the Sparks after being acquired in a trade with the Dream last Wednesday. Cash is averaging just 1.5 points.