Not a promising start for the Sun in playoffs
Mohegan - The Connecticut Sun got what it could only dream of Friday night - Atlanta Dream star Angel McCoughtry sitting on the bench with five fouls and over nine minutes left in their Game 1 of their Eastern Conference semifinal game.
Instead, Connecticut finds itself where it didn't want to be - down one game in its best-of-three series and going on the road.
Atlanta persevered without its best player, winning 89-84 before 7,373 at Mohegan Sun Arena.
McCoughtry picked up her fifth foul with 9 minutes, 10 seconds left in the game. The Sun led 68-63.
The Dream prevailed due to their ability to get to the free throw line. They made 12 of 15 free throws in the fourth quarter.
"We just started fouling," Sun Kara Lawson said. "There wasn't really a flow to what they were doing offensively at that point. I thought we were pretty locked in defensively, but we allowed them to score points with their best offensive player on the bench because we fouled them.
"It just felt like every time they came down on the offensive end, they were standing (at the free throw line) shooting.
Atlanta (21-14) made 27 of 33 free throws. It was the most free throws attempted and made against the Sun in a postseason game. The Dream also outrebounded Connecticut 47-29.
"They key areas you need to play well in to win a playoff game we struggled with," Sun coach Mike Thibault said.
Dream Lindsey Harding said: "When I saw (McCoughtry) get that fifth foul, I was like, 'Oh, jeez, people are going to have to step up and score and also get these stops.' And we were able to do that."
It was just Connecticut's third home loss this season. And it plays at the Dream Sunday (3 p.m.) having lost 11 of 17 regular-season road games. The Sun (21-14) lost twice at Atlanta this season.
Sancho Lyttle had 13 points and 11 rebounds for the Dream and Erika de Souza had 16 points and nine rebounds.
Harding shot 9 of 11 from the free throw line and scored 21.
Tina Charles had 12 points and seven rebounds for Connecticut. Asjha Jones added 16 points and six rebounds.
Containing McCoughtry was the Sun's primary concern. She was runner-up for the league's scoring title (21.6 ppg) with an uncanny knack of getting to the free throw line (she set a WNBA record with 287 free throw attempts).
McCoughtry picked up her fifth foul as Connecticut's Allison Hightower drove to the rim.
Hightower made both her free throws to give her team a 68-63 lead with McCoughtry on the bench.
McCoughtry (16 points, 10 rebounds) returned to the game with 19.8 seconds left to play. Atlanta led 86-82.
"We played without Angel in the beginning of the season," Lyttle said, referring to McCoughtry being limited at the start due to a sprained left knee.
"We know what it takes if she goes out of the game."
Iziane Castro Marques replaced McCoughtry. She made a 3-pointer after an Armintie Price offensive rebound, cutting Connecticut's lead to 68-66.
Castro Marques hit her second 3-pointer with 6:18 remaining in the game. It gave Atlanta a 72-70 lead.
Those two 3-pointers were Castro Marques' only points of the game, and the Dream never trailed again.
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