All the momentum was on the Washington Mystics' side going into their opening-round series with the Atlanta Dream, and it carried into Game 1.
If things stay that way Saturday night, Washington will notch the second playoff series victory in franchise history and Atlanta will leave the postseason without a win for the first time in four years.
Though both teams entered this best-of-three Eastern Conference semifinal matchup with 17-17 records, the Mystics were riding a three-game winning streak and the Dream had dropped four straight. Atlanta had the higher seed and home-court advantage for winning the season series 3-2, but Washington won the final two matchups and made it three in a row with a relatively easy 71-56 victory Thursday.
"I think we were very confident going into the game," said Mystics guard Monique Currie, who had 10 points and five assists. "We had won the last two meetings with them, we had a very good gameplan and we executed it very well. OK, we didn't think we were gonna be able to win by 20, but we knew that we were very capable of beating Atlanta."
It was the first career playoff win for Currie, an eight-year veteran who joined Washington in 2007.
Ivory Latta had 14 points and seven assists to lead the Mystics, who had lost eight straight postseason games since Sept. 24, 2004. The only time they won a playoff series in their 16-year history was a first-round sweep of now-defunct Charlotte in 2002.
"Just to come to Atlanta and get the win I think is very exciting for our team and our organization," said Crystal Langhorne, who grabbed 15 rebounds as the Mystics had a 48-36 edge on the boards.
The Dream, in the playoffs for the fifth consecutive season, are hoping to avoid a second straight first-round exit and first semifinal sweep since falling to the Shock in 2009.
Angel McCoughtry, who won her second WNBA scoring title this season with 21.5 points per game, scored 20 but shot 6 of 20 from the field.
"If we're not upset right now and embarrassed on national television, then we might as well go home now and not show up in D.C.," McCoughtry said. "Right now needs to be the turning point, this very moment."
The Dream have lost 12 of 13 on the road, including a 74-64 defeat in the nation's capital Aug. 28. McCoughtry also shot 6 of 20 in that game, getting held to 17 points.
"I know Atlanta's not gonna give up, they're a great team," Currie said. "They've been here before. But we're looking to seal it at home and we're gonna do the same thing we did (Thursday)."
The series opener saw the Dream shoot a franchise-worst 26.7 percent from the field and tie the team record for fewest points.
"It's not about who's more talented," McCoughtry said. "It's not about who has this and that - just the heart. Heart will win you anything. We've just got to want it more than our opponent."