7:30 PM ET, August 25, 2009
Sacramento: T. Penicheiro 9 Pts, 3 Reb, 11 Ast, 2 Stl
Atlanta: I. Castro Marques 30 Pts, 1 Reb, 4 Ast
The Atlanta Dream have generally been excellent at Philips Arena this season, but need a victory Tuesday night to ensure a winning homestand.Suddenly, beating the Sacramento Monarchs is far from a sure thing.Atlanta looks to cool off the league-worst Monarchs, who have won four of five in a desperate attempt at a late playoff push.The Dream (14-12), tied for second place in the Eastern Conference following their 4-30 expansion season, dropped to 3-2 on their longest homestand of the season with a 91-87 loss Sunday to Los Angeles. Atlanta, though, is 10-5 overall at home."It was a disappointing loss," said guard Iziane Castro Marques, who made five 3-pointers and scored a game-high 26 points. "But we'll learn from it."Sacramento (9-18) was 5-17 and all but eliminated from postseason contention after an 18-point home loss Aug. 7, but has become one of the league's hottest teams.The Monarchs' four wins since that defeat have been by an average of 12.5 points, with Saturday's 82-60 blowout of Washington serving as their largest margin of victory since beating Detroit 95-71 on Aug. 30, 2006."These are signs that we are playing a notch up," Sacramento coach and general manager John Whisenant said. "We still got a long way to go. We are not there yet, but we are still making progress."Nicole Powell had 26 points and 11 rebounds in the win, increasing her average to 19.0 points per game during the Monarchs' 4-1 stretch that has them within two games of San Antonio and Minnesota for the West's final playoff spot."Everybody thinks we are out of it," said point guard Ticha Penicheiro, third in the league with 5.0 assists per game. "But until we are automatically out of it we are going to fight and play well for ourselves and our fans."Castro Marques is the Dream's second-leading scorer at 13.2 points per game, but the team was without its top scorer Sunday. Chamique Holdsclaw, bothered by a sore knee, didn't play after going scoreless in eight minutes Thursday against San Antonio and it's unclear when she will return."We're just not taking any chances with her," coach Marynell Meadors said. "This was the first time we have played without her and I think her presence and leadership is so valuable for us."Fortunately for Atlanta, rookie Angel McCoughtry has stepped up. The top overall draft pick has averaged 24.3 points and 4.0 steals in the Dream's last three games.Castro Marques was held to 8.5 points per game in Atlanta's two losses to Sacramento in 2008.