The Atlanta Dream are on the verge of their longest losing streak in six years, but avoiding it could mean clinching the Eastern Conference title Sunday night.
The Dream could be in position to secure the No. 1 seed when they visit the Chicago Sky.
Two games up on second-place Washington, the Dream (17-13) have dropped eight of 10 since capping a 12-2 stretch with a 81-79 home win over Chicago on July 13.
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Despite the slump, the defending East champs can secure the No. 1 seed with a victory and a Mystics loss Sunday. Washington faces Connecticut two hours before the Dream and Sky tip off, so Atlanta should have a good idea of whether a victory will lock up the East by gametime.
Of course, picking up wins has been anything but easy of late for the Dream, who are looking to avoid their first five-game losing streak since a 10-game slide July 18-Sept. 8, 2008. Atlanta is closing out a season-high four-game road trip.
Erika de Souza had 21 points and Shoni Schimmel added 12 – all on 3-pointers – but Candace Parker made two free throws with 1.8 seconds left to seal Los Angeles’ 80-77 overtime victory Friday.
Angel McCoughtry, who averages a team-high 19.0 points, managed 12 and shot 5 for 20. She missed all five field-goal attempts and had a season-low two points in Thursday’s 88-68 loss to Seattle.
”She just has to fight through it,” said Dream coach Michael Cooper, who is with the team while recovering from surgery for tongue cancer. "Great players have those games where the ball won’t go in. I’ve still got a lot of faith in her."
McCoughtry has totaled 53 points and 15 rebounds in Atlanta’s two wins over Chicago (13-17) this season. The All-Star missed an 87-73 road loss to the Sky on May 24 due to a rhomboid strain and shot 5 of 17 for 12 points in the teams’ last meeting, a 79-75 Chicago road victory July 25.
Elena Delle Donne had 27 points in the May matchup to help the Sky win their third straight home meeting in the series. The All-Star forward averaged 15.3 points in three straight wins after missing more than a month with a flareup of Lyme Disease, but shot 1 of 7 for a season-low two points in Thursday’s 74-64 loss at Minnesota.
The Sky led with less than two minutes left but the Lynx closed the game on an 11-0 run. Chicago is tied with Indiana for the final playoff spot in the East and is a half-game behind third-place New York.
”We just crumbled,” said guard Allie Quigley, who had a team-high 20 points off the bench. ”We played 36-38 minutes of good basketball and the last two minutes we just didn’t execute.”
Quigley had her best performance as a pro at Atlanta on July 13, posting career highs of 27 points and four steals while grabbing a career high-tying five rebounds in the Dream’s 81-79 overtime victory.