The Dream outscored the Sky 52-30 in scoring in the paint, and coach Marynell Meadors and Harding credited DeSouza’s presence for the disparity.
“It was more than just her points tonight,” Harding said. “It was her defense. I think she did a great job on Sylvia, which is a really hard thing to do. We need that big, center presence and I feel like we were missing that in the first half of the season.”
Epiphanny Prince scored 16 points in her return to Chicago’s lineup after being sidelined since mid-June with a foot injury. Sylvia Fowles had 13 points while Le’Coe Willingham added 11 for the Sky (8-10).
Chicago was 7-1 at the time of Prince’s injury and struggled in her absence. Even in her first game back, the Sky lost their fifth straight.
“She means a lot to this team,” Fowles said. “Just to have her back is a blessing and hopefully she gets back to the full recovery and what she had. For the most part though, she looked good and I’m happy to have her back.”
Prince shot 5 for 11 from the field, including 4 for 8 on 3-pointers, in a little more than 28 minutes.
“My foot feels okay. It doesn’t hurt anymore so that’s a good thing,” Prince said. “I feel like I blended in too much. In the fourth quarter, seven or so minutes went by and I didn’t demand the ball until three minutes left. While they were executing, we were forcing things and turned the ball over too many times.”
Chicago led 61-59 entering the final quarter and 72-71 with 4 1/2 minutes to play. However, McCoughtry’s putback gave Atlanta the lead for good at 73-72 with 3:13 remaining.
“We had the lead a lot during the first three quarters but I really thought we played really good down the stretch,” Meadors said. “The last four to five minutes, we played some really good basketball and had some really good stops while being able to score.”
Swin Cash had seven points as the Sky opened a 19-16 lead. The Dream surged back with a late 10-0 run that included a three-point play by McCoughtry and two baskets by Harding on the way to a 26-21 advantage by quarter’s end.
McCoughtry scored nine points in the second quarter to help Atlanta maintain a slim lead late in the half. The Sky pulled to 42-40 on Cash’s rebound shot, but McCoughtry closed the period with a pair of free throws for a 44-40 halftime edge.
“It was a really good game,” McCoughtry said. “We have a good team. We know that it’s the end of the season and that every game counts and everything is important so we knew we had to come out and play the way we did.”
The Sky reclaimed the lead at 55-53 on Sonja Petrovic’s jumper and maintained a two-point lead after the third quarter, but were outscored 23-15 in the fourth.