WASHINGTON (AP) —Atlanta didn’t even need Olympic gold medalist Angel McCoughtry, thanks to Washington’s mistakes.
Armintie Price paced five double-figure scorers with 19 points and the Dream climbed above .500 for the first time this season with an 81-69 victory over the Mystics on Friday night.
Tiffany Hayes and Lindsey Harding each scored 16 points for the Dream (12-11). Atlanta established an early double-digit lead by repeatedly forcing turnovers in the first quarter and shooting 56.8 percent from the field before halftime.
McCoughtry, the WNBA’s leading scorer, sat out for personal reasons, according to Dream coach Marynell Meadors.
“She’s day to day. We’re very hopeful that she gets back pretty soon,” said Meadors, who doubles as Atlanta’s general manager and thus is responsible for putting together a roster able to overcome such a high-level absence.
“I’ve always said we’ve got a lot of depth on this team. Right now, when you’re playing without a person scoring 22 a game, somebody else steps up,” Meadors said. “Armintie Price stepped up tonight with 19 points and we had great balance. We created a lot of turnovers and when you do that you can go down and shoot some layups and a high percentage.”
Matee Ajavon scored 16 of her 20 points in the fourth quarter and Crystal Langhorne had 17 points and 10 rebounds for the Mystics (5-18). Washington has lost four of five since returning from the Olympic break, including two straight.
Second in the league in turnovers entering the game, the Mystics, committed 18 - nine in the first quarter - which led to 25 Atlanta points. The Dream finished with 40 points in the paint.
“If you can’t take care of the ball, you can’t make shots,” said Washington’s Monique Currie. “We can’t get shots, we’re not getting back on defense. They had a layup clinic.”
Sancho Lyttle scored 14 points and Catherine Kraayeveld added 10 for the Dream. Atlanta led by 13 points after the first quarter and held its largest lead at 68-40 with 1:40 left in the third quarter on Kraayeveld’s 3-pointer.
“When you have that many people scoring in double figures, it’s extremely, extremely hard to guard,” Harding said. “I think that has made us a better team.”
Led by Ajavon’s four late 3-pointers, Washington outscored Atlanta 25-13 in the fourth quarter and cut the lead to 77-69 inside the final minute but would get no closer.
“It was pretty tough to come back from that deficit,” Ajavon said. “That loss is pretty hard.”
Atlanta claimed consecutive victories for the first time since taking three straight from June 24-29 and established a winning record for the first time in seven attempts this season.
The Dream took control in the early minutes, closing the first quarter on a 13-2 run for a 25-12 lead. Both teams shot at least 55 percent from the field, but the Dream had 20 shot attempts compared to the Mystics’ seven - or two less than Washington’s turnovers in the quarter.
Harding, who played for Washington’s last two playoff teams from 2008-09, scored the final four points of the first quarter. Her fadeaway jumper capped the second quarter scoring as Atlanta led 49-33 at halftime.
Opening the second half, the Mystics committed turnovers on their first two possessions while the Dream made five straight shots, extending the lead to 61-35.
Price, Little and Hayes each finished with three steals.
“This team loves to play defense,” Meadors said. “They love to get interceptions, they love to get steals and they love to shoot layups.”
Currie finished with 14 points for the Mystics.
The meeting was the first of four scheduled between the Eastern Conference foes this season.