Saturday, September 5, 2009

Atlanta vs. Phoenix, Saturday September 5

Who: The Atlanta Dream (17-14) take on the Western Conference-leading Phoenix Mercury (21-10) in the final game of a long road trip.

The Dream have a cast including Rookie of the Month Angel McCoughtry (12.6 ppg) and Sancho Lyttle (13.3 ppg, 7.6 prg). Iziane Castro Marques (14.4 ppg) leads the team in scoring. Speaking of scoring, Diana Taurasi (20.6 ppg) and Cappie Pondexter (19.4 ppg) can put points o the board and DeWanna Bonner (11.3 ppg) is McCoughtry's competitor in the Rookie of the Year race.

What: The final of two games this year against the Mercury. The Dream walloped the Mercury 106-76 on July 30th in Atlanta.

Where: The US Airways Center in Phoenix.

When: Tipoff is 10 pm Eastern on Saturday, September 5th. The game is available on WNBA Live Access.

Why: Circumstances have lined up against Atlanta in almost every way imaginable tonight. Not only is this the second game of a back to back, not only does Phoenix remember their 30-point loss to Atlanta in July where the Dream set a franchise record in total points, but a win against Atlanta gets Phoenix about as close as you can get to a conference Championship. If Seattle loses tonight and Phoenix wins, Phoenix gets home field advantage throughout the Western Conference playoffs.

Atlanta and Phoenix's success might come down to two words - stay healthy. Atlanta's Chamique Holdsclaw is still recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery, but she should be back for any post-season games. Phoenix hasn't suffered any major injuries. Atlanta's hope is to have a good performance - to come within 10 points of Phoenix - and not get hurt doing it. A win would be better than expected - any win by Atlanta combined with losses by both Washington and Chicago secures a place for the Dream in the post-season.

Angel McCoughtry is coming off a great game against Sacramento where the Dream shot 64 percent - McCoughtry had 26 points and 10 assists in that game. Erika de Souza scored 27 points and 13 rebounds, showing that when two great Dream players get hot it is extremely hard for any other team to win. Everyone on the Phoenix team, down to the bench players, will have to step up to beat Atlanta - in our last few games, our bench generally outscores the enemy bench.

As for Phoenix, they're coming off a 106-90 drubbing of the Indiana Fever in Indianapolis and have had two days of rest. Penny Taylor, the Australian player who arrived in mid-season, has averaged at least 10 points a game over the last four games, where the Mercury have won 3 of 4. Atlanta relies on strength, Phoenix relies on speed. It should be a good game.

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