The Washington Mystics played one of their best games of the season Friday night, locking down on defense to force 16 turnovers and beat the Dream 74-64, their first win over Atlanta in nearly two years.
“That’s a terrific win, much needed,” said Coach Mike Thibault, whose team snapped a run of eight straight losses to Atlanta. “We made them work for everything they got, and the result was good.”
The Mystics (13-15) found space in the Dream’s defense early, consistently working the ball to find high-percentage shots. They were paced early by a pair of Rutgers alums as center Kia Vaughn — coming off a season-high 21 points Tuesday night — and guard Matee Ajavon combined to score the Mystics’ first 10 points.
Washington led by four after the first quarter, then endured a four-minute scoring drought in the second that left it trailing by four. Ivory Latta (14 points) ended the stretch with a vicious crossover drive and the Mystics would take a two-point lead into halftime.
Vaughn (12 points) continued to establish herself as a strong presence on both ends of the floor in the third quarter. In the fourth, the Mystics turned a close game into a rout with a 14-1 run, punctuated by a pair of three-pointers from Latta.
“Defense and lack of turnovers was the difference,” Thibault said. “They count on getting steals from teams to win games, and [having only] 10 turnovers is huge.”
The Mystics gave the Dream (14-10), which came into the game leading the WNBA in steals per game (10.9), a taste of its own medicine with 10 steals (compared to five for Atlanta) and holding Atlanta to 36 percent shooting.
“They’re a team that likes to drive to the basket, they lead the league in points in the paint,” forward Monique Currie said. “They shot 1 for 18 from the three-point line, which isn’t their strong point. So we were focused on keeping them out of the paint.”
Washington had four players in double figures, led by Currie’s 15 points. Angel McCoughtry paced the Dream with 17 points, eight rebounds, and eight assists.
“It feels great. It’s kind of like the monkey’s off our back with them,” Currie said. “We play them so many times and haven’t found a way to beat them . . . we made them uncomfortable and were able to win.”
●SKY 82, LIBERTY 64: In Rosemont, Ill., Sylvia Fowles scored 14 points to lead Chicago to a win over New York, clinching the Sky’s first playoff berth in the team’s eight-year history.
The Sky (19-8) has won four straight and six of seven, locking up their first winning record with a victory Tuesday at Washington. Chicago leads the Eastern Conference by 3½ games over Atlanta, which lost, 74-64, to Washington.
Plenette Pierson led New York (10-16) with a season-high 25 points.
●SHOCK 73, SILVER STARS 67: In Tulsa, Okla., Liz Cambage had 20 points and eight rebounds as Tulsa earned a win over San Antonio.
Candace Wiggins added 16 points for the Shock, including two key free throws with 7.2 seconds to go that sealed the win.
The Shock (9-18) matched the team’s highest victory total in its four seasons in Tulsa. Shameka Christon scored 18 points off the bench to lead the Silver Stars (9-17).