Mystics-Dream Preview

The Atlanta Dream have cruised to a franchise-best start. And with a game against the struggling Washington Mystics on tap, they seem likely to improve on that record. Atlanta looks to stay undefeated at home Friday night when it faces a Washington team it already defeated on the road earlier this month. Four straight victories have led the Dream to an 8-1 start, their best ever and the WNBA's current top mark. They're also 5-0 at home after a 76-60 victory over defending champion Indiana on Tuesday. Angel McCoughtry - who led the WNBA in scoring last year at 21.4 points per game - had a season-high 34 points in Sunday's win over Connecticut. But Atlanta only needed 16 from her in Tuesday's win. "I don't think I would've had the energy to put up 34 points today," said McCoughtry, averaging 20.7 points. "We flew back (Monday) and practiced. It was a lot, but it was a good game. The girls played well." Aside from McCoughtry's scoring, Atlanta has relied on excellent defense. The Dream are holding opponents to a league-best 69.2 points per game, allowing 60 or fewer in three of their last six contests. Atlanta's 16 steals against Indiana matched a season high, and the club's average of 13.1 leads the league. "We have to realize, with the season we're having this year, we can't come out lackadaisical," said McCoughtry, who accounted for seven of those steals and leads all players with 3.9 per game. "We have to come out like a championship team, playing hard from the jump. Fortunately, our defense picked it up in the second quarter when we held them to 10 points." The Mystics (4-5) got off to a promising 4-1 start after finishing last in the Eastern Conference each of the last two seasons with a combined 11-57 record. But they've since lost four in a row and gave up a season high in points in a 101-97 home loss to Phoenix on Thursday - the third time in four contests an opponent scored 90 or more. Some bad luck may have also contributed to the fourth straight defeat. The Mystics trailed Phoenix 99-96 when Matee Ajavon hit a 3-pointer as she was fouled with 4.5 seconds left. However, the refs later ruled the foul was on the floor, negating the shot. "I don't know what to say," coach Mike Thibault said. "I haven't watched that play yet, so I don't know. I know that the official put their hand up for a shot attempt and I didn't hear a whistle until then." Atlanta claimed a 73-63 win at Washington on June 2. The Mystics' 39.6 percent 3-point shooting leads the league, but they were 0 for 5 from beyond the arc in that contest. McCoughtry scored 15, while Crystal Langhorne - who went 12 of 13 to score 27 against Phoenix - also finished with 15.