The Washington Mystics wore pink uniforms during Sunday afternoon’s game to help promote breast health awareness. The issue is particularly personal to starting point guard Ivory Latta, who went through several harrowing weeks early this season when she was unsure whether a lump to the side of her left breast was malignant.
A biopsy revealed the tumor was non-cancerous, but the experience caused the two-time all-star to take stock not just of her basketball career but also her life off the court. Still, Latta continues to feel most at ease with a basketball in her hands, showing as much with a game-high 21 points in a 77-67 victory over the Atlanta Dream in front of 8,137 at Verizon Center.
In pushing the Mystics to a season-high fourth straight win and sixth in seven games, Latta added six assists and six rebounds against the first-place team in the Eastern Conference. Washington (13-13) reached .500 for the first time since June 13, avoided being swept in the four-game regular season series and moved within three games of the top seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
“Confidence is there,” Latta said. “Everybody’s feeding off each other. It’s like a collective unit that’s coming together, finally coming together and buying in to what we need to do. It’s a great feeling right now, but we can’t get complacent. It’s going to be a dogfight every night in the Eastern Conference.”
Latta averaged 20 points during the Mystics’ three-game sweep of their final homestand this season. Washington had not won more than two in a row at Verizon Center until beating the Dream (15-9), which lost its fourth in a row, three of which have come without Coach Michael Cooper. The former Los Angeles Lakers star had tongue cancer diagnosed and is expected to miss two weeks while undergoing treatment.
The Mystics had plenty of contributions from other sources than Latta to dispatch last season’s Eastern Conference champions, including 29 points from their reserves. Among the most important were backup guard Kara Lawson scoring seven of her 14 points during three minutes in the fourth quarter to keep Atlanta at arm’s length.
“We’re really just focused on trying to make the playoffs,” said Lawson, who made 6 of 8 shots and 2 of 3 three-point attempts. “We talk about it all the time. You’re one good week away from being in second place and one bad week from being in sixth. That’s the reality of our conference.”
For a second game in a row, Washington was able to take one of the WNBA’s most dynamic scorers out of her comfort zone. This time the Mystics limited Angel McCoughtry, the reigning scoring champion, to 12 points on 5-for-17 shooting. In Friday’s win against the Tulsa Shock, Washington forced Skylar Diggins, second in the WNBA this season in scoring average with 21.4 points per game, to take 19 shots for 19 points.
Forward Sancho Lyttle led Atlanta with 19 points and eight rebounds, and guard Tiffany Hayes had 12 points but missed eight of her 12 shots.
“We have confidence we’re doing things the right way,” Mystics Coach Mike Thibault said. “We’re moving the basketball. We’re playing good team defense. I mean we took another good team and held them to under 40 percent [shooting], which has kind of been the best part of our season so far, but now we’re shooting the ball along with that.”
● LYNX 76, SUN 65: Maya Moore had 17 points, seven rebounds and four assists to help visiting Minnesota hand Connecticut its 10th loss in 12 games.
● SHOCK 79, SKY 69: Glory Johnson scored 14 of her 15 points in the second half and had 11 rebounds to help host Tulsa win for just the second time in nine games.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.