|Dream press on without McCoughtry against Wings|
The Atlanta Dream have won 12 of their past 13 games and have roared into second place in the WNBA standings on the strength of a handful of record-breaking offensive performances and a stifling defense.
Now comes the hard part for Atlanta -- it will have to maintain momentum without one of its star players, All-Star forward Angel McCoughtry. The next step comes Saturday afternoon when the Dream host the reeling Dallas Wings at McCamish Pavilion at Georgia Tech in Atlanta.
Atlanta learned Thursday that McCoughtry will miss the rest of the year with torn ligaments in her left knee. In McCoughtry's ninth professional season, the heart and soul of the Dream averaged 16 points, six rebounds and three assists in 29 games.
"I am disappointed with the injury, but I believe our team is in good hands," McCoughtry said in a release. "We have a supportive group and a lot of goals to still accomplish. I plan to be there every step of the way to help us reach them. I appreciate everyone, and know I will come back stronger than ever."
The Dream (20-10) took McCoughtry's statement to heart on Thursday in their first game since her injury, beating the Los Angeles Sparks 79-73 at home to clinch the season series and the tiebreaker between the teams if that becomes necessary.
Jessica Breland led the Dream with 19 points, nine rebounds and three blocks. Alex Bentley and Tiffany Hayes chipped in 13 points apiece.
With the victory, Atlanta matched its best regular-season win total (20 - 2011).
The Wings head to Atlanta after a 101-92 loss to Connecticut on Wednesday, the sixth straight defeat for Dallas.
League MVP candidate Liz Cambage led the Wings with 29 points after going 14 of 21 from the floor and grabbing nine rebounds. Skylar Diggins-Smith, back after missing two games with a facial injury, had 18 points and three assists.
Azura Stevens had 15 points and nine rebounds, and Theresa Plaisance scored her first points since returning from an ACL injury, finishing with 13 points and six rebounds.
Seven of the league's eight playoff spots have been clinched. Dallas (14-15) has a 2 1/2-game lead over Las Vegas, which has lost five straight outings, for the final spot with five games to play.
"These last five games, you're going to see a team that really has some fire under our butts and we're really going to come out and start punching people in the jaw," Plaisance said. "You're not going to see any quit in the Dallas Wings."
The Wings can solidify its standing with a win at Atlanta, but that will be a task. The Dream are 12-4 on their home floor, the best mark in the WNBA.
Dallas is also reeling from an injury to one of its star players. Cambage is listed as questionable to Atlanta on Saturday after taking a hard hit to her head in the Wednesday loss to Connecticut, a team source told the Dallas Morning-News.