7:30 PM ET, July 3, 2009
Alana Beard got plenty of space to drive to her right in her last contest, resulting in a game-winning shot for the Washington Mystics. The Atlanta Dream, meanwhile, seem to be giving their opponents plenty of room all over the floor.The Mystics, with a chance to win consecutive games for the first time since opening the season with three straight victories, look to take advantage of a struggling Dream defense Friday night in Atlanta.Washington (5-3) avoided a three-game skid Tuesday night with an 84-82 win at San Antonio. Beard provided the heroics, hitting a 16-footer with 1.9 seconds left."Everybody in this league knows I want to go left, so they gave me all of my right and I took what they gave me," said Beard, averaging a team-high 19.3 points and 3.1 steals.Beard has averaged 23.5 points as the Mystics have split two games this season with the Dream (4-6), who are allowing 83.8 points per game. Atlanta has lost four of its last five, surrendering an average of 90.2 points during that span.The Dream have the WNBA's worst perimeter defense, allowing opponents to shoot 42.4 percent from 3-point range. That doesn't bode well against a Washington club that makes 39.4 percent of its attempts from beyond the arc.The Mystics also got their inside game on track versus the Silver Stars, outrebounding them 32-24. Washington got a particularly strong effort from forward Crystal Langhorne, who had 13 points and five rebounds off the bench."Our game plan was to establish post presence," Beard said. "We have had a hard time with that earlier in the season. ... Crystal Langhorne is probably our most consistent player."Langhorne tops the Mystics with 8.0 rebounds per game, including a WNBA-leading 3.5 on the offensive glass. She's also one of four players averaging double digits in scoring for Washington, posting 12.0 points per game.Langhorne will likely be matched up at times with former Mystic and fellow Queens, N.Y. native Chamique Holdsclaw, who is averaging a team-high 14.6 points in her first season with the Dream.Holdsclaw had 14 points against Minnesota on Tuesday night, but Atlanta lost 91-85 to remain one victory shy of eclipsing last season's total.The Dream again struggled to fight through screens, allowing Lynx shooters to get open from long range. Minnesota made 50 percent (13 for 26) of its 3-point attempts.Atlanta was able to stay in the game with another strong offensive performance. The Dream are averaging 81.9 points while shooting 46.4 percent on the season.Iziane Castro Marques had a career-high 31 points versus the Lynx. She's averaging 11.6, but was held scoreless in Atlanta's 77-71 loss at Washington on June 7.The Dream avenged that loss June 19, beating the Mystics 93-81 at home. All five Atlanta starters scored in double figures, with Sancho Lyttle posting 20 points and 13 rebounds.