The Atlanta Dream is flying high and the Indiana Fever are not, butixthe two teams are a lot more alike than their records might indicate, making their showdown on Friday in Atlanta at McCamish Pavilion on the campus of Georgia Tech University a battle of wills as much as talent and momentum.
There's no doubt that the Dream produced their best game of the year in their most recent contest as they swamped Washington 106-89 on the road. Atlanta set a WNBA record when four players notched 20-plus and recorded at least five assists in a win.
Angel McCoughtry paced the Dream with 24 points and six assists, while Jessica Breland hit for 23 points and dished out seven assists, and Tiffany Hayes and Renee Montgomery each had 21 points and five assists for Atlanta in the statement win by one of the league's best defensive teams.
The Dream (10-9) shot 60 percent from the field, including 61 percent from 3-point range.
Atlanta had averaged 76 points per game over its first 17 contests and have become a better team as it had moved away from its reliance on McCoughtry to carry the load.
McCoughtry, who holds WNBA records for the most single-game points in the Finals (38) and playoffs (42), is averaging 16.9 per game this season, the lowest total in her career since her rookie year in 2009.
"I'm not the top scorer this year, and it certainly was something I'd always been," McCoughtry told the Washington Post. "But when you have the heart and desire to be great, you can't that play away, no matter what the stat line says.
"I let my teammates do their thing, and it kind of takes attention off of me a little bit, and then that's when I can come down and get my spots. I like to sneak and get them, to get my sneaky points in there."
Indiana (2-18) is back on the road after losing 87-65 to defending league champion Minnesota on Wednesday in Indianapolis.
The Fever fell behind early and trailed by as many as 22 points.
"We wanted to make sure we established some presence early on the defensive end and we didn't," Fever coach Pokey Chatman said after the loss to Minnesota. "It's hard to play catch up in this league, let alone against a team that has experience and savvy."
Guard Erica Wheeler led the way for Indiana off the bench with 12 points, six rebounds, five assists and three steals while Kelsey Mitchell scored 11 points and Natalie Achonwa added 10 for the Fever in the loss.
"I got most of my shots because of defense, either turnovers or a steal, just that momentum and being aggressive," Wheeler told wnba.com when asked about her performance against Minnesota. "So, me being aggressive on defense allows me to be an offensive scorer and attack."
Indiana battles the Dream for the fourth and final time in 2018, hoping to even the season series at 2-2. Atlanta has escaped with five- and six-point wins over Indiana this season, while the Fever captured a 32-point win in what was the first of only two Indiana victories all year.
Atlanta owns a 21-20 advantage in the all-time series against the Fever; the Dream leads 13-7 in games played in Atlanta.