A shocking loss a home in the series opener left Angel McCoughtry feeling on edge, and she took out her frustrations in Game 2 while helping the top-seeded Atlanta Dream even their first-round series with the Chicago Sky.
Another solid performance in Tuesday night’s decisive Game 3 against visiting Chicago would get Atlanta closer to its fourth Eastern Conference title in five years.
McCoughtry scored a game-high 24 points in Game 1, but Courtney Vandersloot hit a go-ahead jumper with 20.9 seconds remaining as the fourth-seeded Sky stole home-court advantage with an 80-77 victory Friday.
With her team on the brink of elimination Sunday, McCoughtry hit 13 of 20 from the field and 13 of 14 from the free throw line to finish with 39 points in a 92-83 road victory.
Atlanta now heads home seeking another trip to the conference finals.
”I just wanted to will the team to win,” McCoughtry said. ”I wanted the ball in my hands and I wanted to take over the game. Luckily I hit a good percentage of my shots and my teammates gave me the ball and trusted me with it.”
Elena Delle Donne scored 22 points for Chicago, which isn’t getting down on itself despite missing an opportunity to close out the series at home. It has battled through numerous setbacks to reach this point, including four starters missing multiple games for various reasons.
“We were able to get that first win on the road, so we’ll have to dig down deep and get a second win on the road,” said Delle Donne, who had 21 points in the series opener. “It’s not like this team hasn’t faced adversity before.”
Coach Pokey Chatman knows her squad must find a way to stop McCoughtry.
”(McCoughtry) set the tone early and put her team on her back. You can’t have that,” Chatman said. ”We have to regroup, watch the video. I don’t think there’s a lot of adjustments we have to make as a matter of Xs and Os. It’s a matter of making sure from the beginning we set the tone.”
The Dream’s top scorer also contributed defensively as Delle Donne shot 0 for 5 from the field in the second half of Game 2. Atlanta struggled down the stretch in the regular season before dropping the opener, but still has expectations of making its second straight trip to the WNBA Finals and winning its first title.
“I am anticipating this team to not just make it to the top and kind of come up short, but to go out there and win the championship,” rookie Shoni Schimmel told the Dream’s official website. “We’re a great basketball team.”