Commentary

Dream will regroup for Game 2

Erika de Souza is expected back, which means Atlanta can return to its usual lineup

Originally Published: October 2, 2011
By Mechelle Voepel | ESPN.com

MINNEAPOLIS -- Angel McCoughtry has been sliding over to the power forward position in Atlanta's starting lineup while center Erika de Souza is away. McCoughtry, 6-foot-1 and lean, jokingly said she's been trying to bulk up with shakes and other forms of protein to give her more strength to handle the pounding inside.

"But as many times as I go to the bathroom before a game, it doesn't work," McCoughtry said.

That might qualify as too much information, but the fact that it was said in such a mirthful tone indicates the feeling the Dream had about their 88-74 Game 1 loss Sunday in the WNBA Finals.

[+] EnlargeAngel McCoughtry
David Sherman/NBAE/Getty ImagesAngel McCoughtry scored 21 of Atlanta's 23 third-quarter points, and finished with 33 in Game 1.

Remember, they lost the opener in the Eastern Conference finals too but came back to win that series.

"Have you guys ever heard the expression, 'This ain't football?'" said McCoughtry, who had more than the hoops equivalent of a five-touchdown rushing performance for the Dream with 33 points. "We're going to come back and have another game. We don't have to wait a week."

The Dream players do have a few days to prepare. Game 2 is at Target Center on Wednesday (ESPN2, 8 p.m. ET), and by then, the Dream expect de Souza to return from her three-game absence. The Dream's starting center has been helping the Brazilian national team win an Olympic qualifying tournament in Colombia.

De Souza averaged 12.0 points and 10.7 rebounds in the three playoff games in which she's appeared this postseason. Those are numbers the Dream really missed on Sunday against the Lynx.

"Erika -- that's a huge comfort level we have down low," Dream point guard Lindsey Harding said. "Angel's been playing out of position, starting at the 4 (power forward spot). That's a little challenging for her. [Erika] is great on the boards, and we needed them."

Atlanta was outrebounded 40-28 by the Minnesota, which eventually wore down the Dream in every aspect in the fourth quarter.

Minnesota's Lindsay Whalen made some of her patented charges into the lane throughout the second half and drained interior shots that most guards would get swatted away, and Lynx forwards Seimone Augustus and Maya Moore put it into full-throttle mode in the fourth quarter, scoring a combined nine points to put the Dream away.

Angel McCoughtry at times can seem as if she can win games all by herself. But against an opponent such as the Lynx, almost no one can do that.

Yes, Harding ended the night with 20 points -- but 16 of those came in the first half. McCoughtry took over in the second. Early in the third quarter, McCoughtry took an inadvertent hit in the face from a Lynx player and fell to the floor. There was no foul called.

Rather than melt down, McCoughtry buckled down and scored 21 of the Dream's 23 third-quarter points, knocking down shots from all over the floor.

But the 53 combined points that McCoughtry and Harding finished with just wasn't enough to compensate for the 13 points from the other three Dream starters. Sancho Lyttle, who slid over to the starting center spot with de Souza gone, never seemed comfortable offensively on Sunday. She and guard Armintie Price were a combined 0-for-10 from the field, and Iziana Castro Marques, who came up so big in the last two games for the Dream, had just 10 points on 5-of-15 shooting.

Atlanta had just 11 assists to Minnesota's 22, showing the lack of help McCoughtry received from her teammates offensively, and while McCoughtry, at times, can almost win games herself, she fell short Sunday night at the Target Center.

Still, she put on quite a show, and her performance gives Minnesota something to think about for Game 2. Can McCoughtry repeat her 33-point explosion when she returns to her usual small-forward position?

"She's extremely aggressive," Augustus said about McCoughtry. "When you think you've got her stopped, she's going to make the extra move, get that extra contact to get to the foul line and get free throws. You know she can score from all over.

"You have to expect that she's going to get 20, 25 points in a game. It's about containing everybody else and making it difficult for them."

The Lynx certainly did that Sunday. But McCoughtry seemed undaunted by the loss.

"We'll adjust, we'll watch film and we're going to get better," McCoughtry said. "We don't have to be down. It's just one game. It's a long series."

Mechelle Voepel, a regular contributor to ESPN.com, can be reached at mvoepel123@yahoo.com. Read her blog at mechellevoepelblog.com.

Mechelle Voepel joined ESPN.com in 1996 and covers women's college hoops, the WNBA, the LPGA, and additional collegiate sports for espnW.