After letting the Atlanta Dream hang around in the Eastern Conference race, the Washington Mystics have a chance to put them away.
The slumping Mystics wrap up a difficult four-game trip with Sunday’s showdown against an Atlanta team with no margin for error left.
Washington (16-14) appeared to be a postseason lock until losing five of six, including all three games on this trek. The slump has kept Atlanta (12-18) alive for a playoff spot, though it needs to win all four remaining games and have the Mystics lose their last four to grab the No. 4 seed.
”Season’s not over, we’ll see what happens in the end,” forward Angel McCoughtry said after the Dream’s 80-75 overtime loss at New York on Tuesday. ”Keep playing hard, give it all we got to the end.”
Atlanta does have two games left with the Mystics and has dominated the recent series, having won 15 of the past 19 regular-season meetings. Those include a 72-69 Dream victory at Philips Arena on June 26 and a 64-61 Atlanta win in Washington on June 12.
The Mystics have lost eight of nine in the regular season at Philips.
Atlanta had won three straight before narrow losses to Chicago and New York. It’s leaned heavily on McCoughtry in that stretch, with the two-time scoring champion averaging 22.6 points and tallying 25 while coming off the bench against the Liberty.
Tiffany Hayes has provided a lift as well, averaging 17.0 points over the last three games and scoring a career-high 28 in a key win at Indiana on Aug. 28.
Washington showed considerable offensive improvement Thursday at Los Angeles after being held to fewer than 60 points in losses to Seattle and Phoenix to open the trip. The Mystics shot 48.6 percent and had six double-figure scorers against the Sparks, but couldn’t hold a 15-point lead in a 93-91 defeat.
"We’ve just got to continue to play hard through the adversity we go through on the road," guard Ivory Latta said. "Road games are hard and the crowd was into it, so you got to just fight through it."
Washington also has had to deal with a back injury to Kara Lawson that’s expected to keep the starting point guard out for a fifth straight game Sunday.
Latta, Washington’s leader at 11.1 points per game, scored 18 on Thursday and Emma Meesseman had 19 on 9-of-12 shooting. Meesseman scored 21 and went 8 of 11 on June 12, with Latta getting held to five points on 2 of 12 from the field.