- Mechelle Voepel, espnW.com
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Going into the playoffs, Fred Williams sounded like a coach who felt his team was still playing hard, but wasn't quite sure if that would bring postseason success. Because he knew hustle wasn't going to be enough if the Atlanta Dream didn't rebound and defend at the level they're capable of, and at least have a passable offensive performance.
Thursday in a dismal 71-56 loss at home, the Dream didn't accomplish any of those things. But Saturday, with their season on the line, it was a different story in Washington.
Well, sort of. It was a different story for the Dream, who won 63-45 over the Mystics in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference semifinal. But for the fans watching this series, unfortunately it was more of the same. They got another ugly offensive display, this time by Washington.
There are WNBA games that are so entertaining and well-played, you think, "This is such great basketball, I really wish everybody was watching."
And then there are games like Saturday's, where you'd just as soon most people avert their eyes. However, this had to be pleasing to watch for Dream fans, who saw their team stay alive by dominating the boards, 53-30, and holding the Mystics to 25 percent shooting from the field.
Yeah, that's right, 25. Yuck. Just when you thought we wouldn't see a team in this postseason shoot any worse than Atlanta did Thursday (26.7 percent, 20 of 75), the Mystics turned into the Miss-tics.
This was brutal. Washington's starting five was 5-of-31. Monique Currie and Crystal Langhorne didn't make a shot, going a combined 0-for-9. Kia Vaughn and Matee Ajavon reminded us of the worst of their days at Rutgers, going 2-of-14. Comparatively, Ivory Latta had the "hot hand" with nine points on 3-of-8 shooting.
It was actually the rookies off the bench who provided most of Washington's offense: Tayler Hill had 11 points, Tierra Ruffin-Pratt 8 and Emma Meesseman 8.
Mike Thibault was awarded the WNBA coach of the year honor before the game. Then the way the Mystics played, he was reminded of why his profession can be so frustrating. This was a really big egg to lay with Washington having the chance to win its first postseason series since 2002.
But credit goes to the Dream, who had the worst regular-season road record of any of the playoff teams, 4-13, but were able to win this one away from home. Armintie Herrington, talking about the Dream's road woes before the series, said, "We have to clean up things, and get the offense to where everybody stays in rhythm."
The Dream did the latter well enough. It still wasn't pretty -- Atlanta shot 35.2 percent from the field -- but it worked.
Angel McCoughtry led the way with 20 points. And anchoring the inside, both offensively and defensively, were Erika de Souza (11 points, 15 rebounds) and Aneika Henry (10 and 12).
Now, the teams go back to Atlanta for the deciding game Monday. Do the Dream have the momentum back? One would assume but considering what we've seen so far, it's hard to be sure of anything with this series.
Atlanta had the worst road record of any team in the playoffs. But with their season on the line, the Dream dominated cold-shooting Washington to force their Eastern Conference semifinals to a decisive Game 3.