ATLANTA -- The Atlanta Dream stayed in first place by controlling the opening and closes quarters Sunday.
Angel McCoughtry scored 23 points, and Erika de Souza had 16 points and 11 rebounds to help the Dream beat the Chicago Sky 88-74.
"We're going to have battles with them all season, but we got the job done this time," McCoughtry said. "With us, it's our defense that gets us going."
The Dream (5-1) led by 18 points in the first quarter, but didn't pull away until going on a 16-2 run in the fourth quarter that included nine straight points after the Sky cut it to six.
"Defense is our game. We take a lot of pride in it," Dream point guard Jasmine Thomas said. "When we got back to playing defense, we got going again and took charge."
Tiffany Hayes had 16 points and eight rebounds off the bench for Atlanta, and Thomas added 13 points. The Dream had 12 steals, five by Armintie Herrington.
"I thought we got outworked in some 50-50 areas and that's hard to recover from," Chicago coach Pokey Chatman said. "We were on our heels all game."
Elena Delle Donne led Chicago (4-2) with 25 points. Allie Quigley had 14, all in the first half, and Sylvia Fowles finished with 10 rebounds.
"You need 2½ players to cover her," Dream coach Fred Williams said about rookie Delle Donne, a former Delaware All-American.
Each team was missing a key player. Epiphanny Prince, averaging 20.7 points to lead the Sky, is playing for the Russian national team. Sancho Lyttle, the Dream's leading rebounder and second-leading scorer, is with Spain's national team.
Chicago made just one of its first 11 shots as Atlanta jumped to a 16-2 lead and led 34-18 at the end of the first quarter after making 4 of 5 3-pointers.
"It was a really poor defensive first quarter," Chatman said.
The Sky, though, cut the deficit to 51-47 at intermission, with Delle Donne scoring 12 of her 16 first-half points in the second quarter.
McCounghtry had 14 points at the break for the Dream, and de Souza had 10. Atlanta shot 52.9 percent (18 of 34) in the first half and hit 6 of 7 3-pointers.
Quigley was about Chicago's only offense in the first quarter, scoring 12 points. But the Sky shot 58.8 percent (10 of 17) in the second quarter and was 11 of 11 from the foul line at intermission and 18 of 19 for the game.
The Dream held Chicago without a basket for nearly 5 minutes and used a 9-0 run to break a tie and take a 66-57 lead at the end of the third quarter. The Sky cut it to 68-64 early in the fourth quarter.
Atlanta shot 46.4 percent (32 of 69) for the game to Chicago's 38 percent (27 of 71) and committed only eight turnovers to 17 for the Sky.
"You have to handle the ball better than that, especially against a team like Atlanta," Chatman said.