Sky's goal to stop Dream's McCoughtry
The mission for Chicago is clear: stop Angel McCoughtry.
McCoughtry scored 37 points in Atlanta's first-round playoff win over Seattle on Wednesday. The win set up a second-round, single-elimination game between the Dream and the Sky on Sunday. Tipoff is at 1 p.m. EDT at Allstate Arena in Rosemont, Ill.
No player in the WNBA has been as dominant on the offensive end as McCoughtry since the Summer Olympics break. She's leading the league in scoring at 23.4 points per game. And she already holds the WNBA playoff record scoring a game-high 42 points.
Chicago, which earned a first-round bye, will have to find a way to contain McCoughtry, and they have to do it without 2015 WNBA MVP Elena Delle Donne, who was ruled out of Sunday's game after having thumb surgery last week.
Delle Donne is averaging 21.5 points and 7.0 rebounds per game. She was hurt on Sept. 7 against Washington and had surgery six days later.
Atlanta advanced to the second round of the playoffs thanks to a fourth-quarter surge that secured a 94-85 home win over the Seattle Storm on Wednesday night.
With the score tied 66-66, McCoughtry and Bria Holmes fueled a 24-6 run.
The Sky watched intently as McCoughtry worked her magic against the Storm. Holmes added 21 points, giving the Dream another solid option on offense as well as another player for the Sky to worry about.
Atlanta was without its second-leading scorer, Tiffany Hayes (15.0 points per game), who was suspended for the first round after picking up her seventh technical foul in the final regular-season game.
Chicago earned a first-round bye despite losing Delle Donne and going 3-2 in their final five games.
Delle Donne resumed practicing this week after having surgery. She was limited and finally ruled out of Sunday's game.
In Delle Donne's place, the Sky will lean on Cappie Pondexter for scoring and leadership. Pondexter's 19.8 points per game in the playoffs is the fifth highest in league history.
Maybe more important, Pondexter averaged 13.6 points, 4.0 rebounds and 5.0 assists per game in three games this season against Atlanta.
Also having to step up in Delle Donne's absence will be Courtney Vandersloot, who was averaging 15.0 points per game in her last five games.
When the two teams last met, the Sky hung on for a 90-82 win on Aug. 26 in Chicago. Atlanta won the previous two meetings between the two.