Dream’s balanced scoring beats Mercury 81-65By CHARLES ODUM, AP Sports Writer Thursday, May 31, 2012
ATLANTA (AP)—Former WNBA MVP Diana Taurasi was back in Phoenix with a hip injury.
The Atlanta Dream’s reserves took full advantage.
Sancho Lyttle and Catherine Kraayeveld scored 12 points each to lead five Atlanta players in double figures and the Dream rolled to an 81-65 victory over the short-handed Mercury on Thursday night.
Taurasi, the league’s defending scoring champion and 2009 MVP, is out indefinitely with a strained left hip flexor and did not travel with the team. She was injured during training camp and has played in only two games.
The Mercury struggled without their star.
“Well, you know I think Diana is one of the top players in the world,” Phoenix coach Corey Gaines said. “Let’s put her in the top five.”
Gaines said losing Taurasi was like an NBA team losing Kevin Durant, Tim Duncan or LeBron James.
“You know whoever is left, it makes a difference in the game.”
Gaines said he has “no idea” when Taurasi can return. He said he doubts Taurasi will join the team when Phoenix plays at San Antonio on Friday.
Atlanta regained its offensive momentum after struggling in a 78-62 loss to Indiana on Sunday when it attempted only 45 field goals, a franchise-record low, and had only two points from its reserves.
Atlanta’s backups outscored the Phoenix reserves 37-10.
“I thought we bounced back really well,” Dream coach Marynell Meadors said. “They took the challenge. They played a lot of minutes tonight. They played really well together. They did a great job defensively.”
Meadors said she has encouraged Kraayeveld, a 6-foot-3 forward, to take more outside shots. She made all of her four shots, including three 3-pointers.
“I knew my coaches and teammates had confidence in me coming off the bench and knocking down a few shots when I am open,” Kraayeveld said.
Without Taurasi, Phoenix lacked the scorers to keep pace with Atlanta. Charde Houston replaced Taurasi in the starting lineup and had two quick baskets as the Mercury trailed only 19-16 after one quarter.
Kraayeveld had consecutive baskets, including a 3-pointer, in a 14-1 run that helped the Dream pull away in the second quarter. McCoughtry banged her left knee with 8:07 remaining in the half and left a minute later after missing two free throws. She sat out the remainder of the half.
McCoughtry, the WNBA’s scoring leader at 23.3 points per game, returned with the knee wrapped for the start of the second half but soon was back on the bench.
“I didn’t play her,” Meadors said. “We were up. We’ve got a big, physical game (against Chicago) coming up on Saturday, so if we don’t need them, I’m going to rest them.”
Tiffany Hayes, one of those reserves, scored eight points.
“We just needed to come out with the same intensity as the first team,” Hayes said. “This was a physical game and we just turned up the intensity. The second team came in and did what they needed to do. I think we all just came in ready.”
Atlanta took a 73-58 lead following back-to-back 3-pointers by Laurie Koehn.
Phoenix started launching 3s in its comeback attempt. Samantha Prahalis had three 3-pointers and Bonner also hit a 3—all in the final quarter. The Mercury cut the lead to 75-63 but Kraayeveld, who led Atlanta with nine rebounds, padded the lead with another 3-pointer.
Price had six rebounds and six assists.