Series Preview: Washington Mystics (1) vs. Atlanta Dream (4)

Aug 23 2010 11:17AM
Which team will win the Conference Semifinal matchup between Washington and Atlanta?
Which team will win the Conference Semifinal matchup between Washington and Atlanta?
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Just when the Eastern Conference race couldn�t get any tighter, the Washington Mystics (22-12) pieced together a season-best six-game win streak and swept in from third place to take the No. 1 seed in the conference. Not only did the Mystics secure a much-needed win over the Liberty Friday night, but they also gained the edge in the deciding tie-breaker to claim the spot after closing out the regular season with a win over the Atlanta Dream (19-15) Sunday afternoon.

Now, heading into the first round of the playoffs, the Mystics will meet once against with the Dream, a team they beat three out of four times during the regular season.

Heading into the 2010 campaign, Mystics head coach Julie Plank admitted the team would have to rely on a win-by-committee approach in the wake of losing four-time All-Star Alana Beard for the season. With the likes of Monique Currie, Lindsey Harding, Crystal Langhorne and Katie Smith running the floor, there was little concern that Washington didn�t have the personnel to get the job done.

What Langorne lacks as a center in her six-foot-two frame, she adequately makes up for with her post moves and knack for good positioning. Last year�s 2009 Most Improved Player of the Year continues to improve, assuming the pivotal role of center on a guard-heavy team that isn�t afraid to shoot the ball. Langhorne nearly averaged a double-double for the season as she averaged 16.3 ppg and 9.7 rpg with 14 double-doubles in 2010.

Gm 1: at Washington, Wed., 8/25, 7 p.m. ET, NBA TV
Gm 2: at Atlanta, Fri., 8/27, 7:30 p.m. ET, NBA TV
Gm 3*: at Washington, Sun., 8/29, 4 p.m. ET, NBA TV
Although the Mystics may rank 11th overall in points per game with 76.91, the team�s .451 field-goal percentage is second best in the East, behind only the Liberty with .453. When matched with Atlanta�s run-and-gun style, accuracy and second-chance buckets remain a crucial factor in securing a win in this best-of-three series. It also doesn't hurt that Washington's No. 1 defense in point allowed per game (73.27) could pose as the perfect counter to Atlanta's surging offense.

If speed kills than the Dream is guilty on 19 accounts. This up-and-down team relies on speed, efficiency and a strong presence in the paint to feed rebounds back to the key for second-chance attacks. Center Erika de Souza tied Chicago�s Sylvia Fowles for second overall with 15 double-doubles. Not far off from the lead was teammate Sancho Lyttle, whose 12 dubs stands as just another reason why the Dream ranked first in the league with 38.88 rebounds per game during the regular season.

Angel McCoughtry�s sophomore campaign proved to be a valuable one for the Dream as she finished the regular season first on the team in scoring (21.1 ppg), also good enough for third overall in the league. McCoughtry�s up-tempo play compliments seven-year veteran Iziane Castro Marques, who reached a career-high 16.9 ppg in 2010.

It�s hard to predict which team will come out on top by the end of this series. Will the Mystics carry the momentum of a six-game win streak into the first round and get the best of Atlanta? Or will the Dream�s high-flying offense be too much for the Mystics to handle?

It may be a No. 1 vs. No. 4 matchup on paper, but this one is capable of going either way.

2010 Regular Season: Washington 3, Atlanta 1
Some fast facts about the first-round matchup:
  • Neither team has ever made a trip to the WNBA Finals.
  • This marks the first postseason meeting between the two teams
  • Both teams were eliminated in the first round of the 2009 playoffs
  • The Dream ranks second overall in scoring (85.38), the Mystics rank 11th overall (76.91)
  • Crystal Langhorne averaged 20 points and 11.5 rebounds per game against the Dream this season
  • Angel McCoughtry averaged 23.75 points per game against the Mystics this season
Saturday, June 5, Verizon Center, Washington, D.C.: Dream 86, Mystics 79 | Box score | Highlights
Atlanta Leaders: Erika de Souza (23 pts., 11 reb.), Angel McCoughtry (23 pts., 2 reb.)
Washington Leaders: Crystal Langhorne (23 pts., 8 reb.), Lindsey Harding (14 pts., 4 reb.)

Wednesday, July 21, Verizon Center, Washington, DC: Mystics 82, Dream 72 | Box score | Highlights
Washington Leaders: Crystal Langhorne (24 pts., 15 reb.), Matee Ajavon (15 pts., 2 reb.)
Atlanta Leaders: Angel McCoughtry (23 pts., 6 reb.), Iziane Castro-Marque (17 pts., 6 ast.)

Tuesday, August 3, Philips Arena, Atlanta, GA: Mystics 86, Dream 78 | Box score | Highlights
Washington Leaders: Katie Smith (18 pts., 2 reb.), Lindsey Harding (16 pts., 6 ast.)
Atlanta Leaders: Angel McCoughtry (30 pts., 2 ast.), Sancho Lyttle (10 pts., 9 reb.)

Sunday, August 22, Philips Arena, Atlanta, GA: Mystics 90, Dream 81 | Box score
Washington Leaders: Monique Currie (20 pts., 4 reb.), Crystal Langhorne (18 pts., 11 reb.)
Atlanta Leaders: Angel McCoughtry (19 pts., 5 reb.), Sancho Lyttle (17 pts., 11 reb.)

See how the teams match up position by position

Shalee Lehning, G, Dream
3.7 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 4.8 APG
Note: Seventh in the league in assists per game (4.8)
Lindsey Harding, G, Mystics
12.1 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 4.0 APG
Note: Scored a career-high 33 points against the Fever on 7/30
Iziane Castro Marques, G, Dream
16.9 PPG, 1.7 RPG, 2.6 APG
Note: Point-per-game total is a new career high
Katie Smith, G, Mystics
9.5 PPG, 2.1 RPG, 2.6 APG
Note: Won two titles with the Detroit Shock in 2006 and 2008
Angel McCoughtry, F, Dream
21.1 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 3.1 APG
Note: Finished her 2009 campaign as Rookie of the Year
Monique Currie, F, Mystics
14.1 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 1.6 APG
Note: Shot a team-best .446 from three-point land
Sancho Lyttle, F, Dream
12.8 PPG, 9.9 RPG, 2.2 APG
Note: Registered a 20-20 game against the Fever on June 19
Chasity Melvin, F, Mystics
5.2 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 0.7 APG
Note: Played with the Mystics from 2004-07, then returned in 2009 after two seasons with the Sky
Erika de Souza, C, Dream
12.4 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 1.18 BPG
Note: Finished second in the league with 15 double-doubles
Crystal Langhorne, C, Mystics
16.3 PPG, 9.7 RPG, 1.1 APG
Note: Led the team in MPG with 34.1
Series Info
Game 1: SEA 79, ATL 77: Box | Recap | Photos | Video
Game 2: SEA 87, ATL 84: Box | Recap | Photos | Video
Game 3: SEA 87, ATL 84: Box | Recap | Photos | Video

Gm 1: SEA 82, PHX 74
Box | Recap | Photos
Gm 2: SEA 91, PHX 88
Box | Recap | Photos

Gm 1: SEA 79, LAS 66
Box | Recap | Photos
Gm 2: SEA 81, LAS 66
Box | Recap | Photos

Gm 1: PHX 106, SAN 93
Box | Recap | Photos
Gm 2: PHX 92, SAN 73
Box | Recap | Photos

Gm 1: ATL 81, NYL 75
Box | Recap | Photos
Gm 2: ATL 105, NYL 93
Box | Recap | Photos

Gm 1: ATL 95 WAS 90
Box | Recap | Photos
Gm 2: ATL 101 WAS 77
Box | Recap | Photos

Gm 1: NYL 85, IND 73
Box | Recap | Photos
Gm 2: IND 75, NYL 67
Box | Recap | Photos
Gm 3: NYL 77, IND 74
Box | Recap | Photos