WASHINGTON (AP) The Washington Mystics are hitting their stride as the regular season winds down.
Ivory Latta scored 21 points and Kara Lawson added 14 as the surging Mystics moved into second place in the Eastern Conference with a 77-67 win over the Atlanta Dream on Sunday.
The Mystics (13-13) have won four straight, their longest streak of the season, and six of seven games.
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Washington trails East-leading Atlanta by three games and climbed back to .500 for the first time since June 13.
”(We’re) finally coming together and buying into what we need to do,” Latta said. ”It’s a great feeling right now, but we can’t get complacent.”
The Dream (15-9) have lost a season-high four games. The last three setbacks have come without head coach Michael Cooper. Recently diagnosed with tongue cancer, Cooper remains on medical leave after undergoing surgery Thursday.
”We just have to find our focus again and get back on track,” acting head coach Karleen Thompson said. ”I know (the players) are going through stuff right now, but that’s not even an excuse.”
Sancho Lyttle led Atlanta with 19 points. Angel McCoughtry, one of the league’s top scorers, had 12 points in 5 of 17 shooting.
The Dream shot 37 percent from the field against the WNBA’s top defensive team. They also committed 15 turnovers leading to 21 points for Washington.
The Dream won the season series 3-1. Atlanta’s three wins came by an average of 10.3 points.
”We beat ourselves,” McCoughtry said when asked why this result didn’t go Atlanta’s way. ”We need to focus in and everybody just needs to play basketball.”
Tierra Ruffin-Pratt scored 13 points off the bench for Washington. The Mystics’ reserves outscored their counterparts 33-12.
”I thought our defense for the majority game was pretty good,” Mystics coach Mike Thibault said. ”We stopped turning the ball over in the second half and we got great production from our bench today too.”
Washington took control with a 12-2 second half run and led by 11 in the fourth quarter. Latta and Lawson combined for 15 of the Mystics’ 18 points in the final period.
Latta made three 3-pointers and led Washington with six assists. In three games since making her second All-Star appearance earlier this month, she is averaging 20.3 points and shooting 50 percent (12 of 24) from beyond the 3-point arc.