|Dream look to keep rolling at Phoenix without McCoughtry|
The toughest challenge for the Atlanta Dream, one of the WNBA's hottest teams that has won six straight games and 14 out of their last 15 games, is preparing for the playoffs without injured standout forward Angel McCoughtry.
McCoughtry, who was averaging 16.5 points, 6.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists, suffered a season-ending knee injury suffered Aug. 7 in a game against Las Vegas.
The Dream (22-10) have managed to win three straight games since then, but the last two wins are against a Dallas team on a nine-game losing streak and against New York, one of the league's worst teams at 7-25.
Atlanta travels to Phoenix (18-14) -- which has won its last two games after losing six of its previous seven games -- on Friday night with the intention of holding on to the No. 2 playoff spot. The Dream lead Washington (21-11) by a game for that spot with two regular-season games remaining.
"We have to get that No. 2 spot," said Atlanta guard Renee Montgomery, who made eight 3-pointers in the Dream's 86-77 win over New York on Sunday. "In a single-game elimination with the talent in this league is scary. It's like March Madness all over again, I like to call it August Madness and really I just want us to be in a position that if we don't have a good game we can come back, regroup, and play another one so that's why the No. 2 position is so important for us."
Phoenix is coming off an 86-78 win over the visiting Los Angeles Sparks on Sunday. The Mercury, who have split their two games with Atlanta this season, were led by their big three against the Sparks -- guard Diana Taurasi and frontcourt standouts Brittney Griner and DeWanna Bonner.
Phoenix, which has beaten every team in the league at least once, had 20 points each from Taurasi (who also had 14 assists) and Griner and 31 from Bonner. Phoenix snapped a six-game losing streak to Los Angeles with the victory.
"Look the most important thing is building momentum and playing the way we know we're capable of playing for 40 minutes," Phoenix coach Sandy Brondello said. "Like I said the last few games we have been getting better and better, but it's just been a bit more consistent. I think we're playing well, and that's what matters when it comes down to the playoffs, if we're playing well."