With the league’s scoring leader a question mark, Atlanta faces the Eastern Conference-worst Washington Mystics on Friday night in the first of four matchups between the teams in the next 10 games.
Back in Atlanta after a 4-4 road stretch that bridged the Olympic break, the Dream (11-11) defeated Chicago 82-71 on Wednesday. Sancho Lyttle had 24 points, seven rebounds and five assists while rookie Tiffany Hayes added 18 points and five assists.
Hayes started in place of McCoughtry, who left the arena for personal reasons after participating in a pregame ceremony to honor the U.S. team that won gold in London.
“I don’t know (if she’ll play Friday),” said coach Marynell Meadors, whose team has alternated losses and wins in its last eight games following a season-best 3-0 run June 24-29. “I can’t answer that.”
The Dream would obviously miss McCoughtry’s 22.7 points per game, but Hayes could again help fill that void. She’s averaged 13.7 points over the last seven contests.
If McCoughtry isn’t available, Lyttle could look for her shot more often like she did against the Sky.
“We were missing a vital part of our team (Wednesday) and we had to come out and play very hard,” said Lyttle, scoring 15.1 points per game with a team-best 7.2 rebounds. “I did something different. The coaches told me to go with the ball. I tried my shots in the first few minutes and they weren’t going in. But I kept trying to go to the rim and after that my shots started going in.”
The Mystics (5-17) are hoping for a better overall shooting performance after going 3 of 13 from the field in the third quarter of a 75-72 loss at San Antonio on Tuesday. Washington was outscored by 14 in that period en route to its third loss in four games since returning from the Olympic hiatus.
“The main thing is San Antonio came out more focused and played with more sense of urgency in the third quarter than we did,” coach Trudi Lacey said.
With an outside shot to catch Chicago and New York for the final playoff spot in the East, the Mystics need to take advantage of their remaining six home games. Washington has the second-worst road record in the WNBA at 1-10.
The Dream will play seven of eight at home following Friday’s contest, including matchups with Washington on Aug. 30 and Sept. 9.
Crystal Langhorne had 25 points and 10 boards as the Mystics snapped a season-high nine-game slide with an 85-81 victory over Atlanta on Sept. 1.
The Dream won the previous two games in the nation’s capital in 2011 and took the season series 3-2.