Atlanta Dream off to best start in team history with 9-1 record

ATLANTA -- The Atlanta Dream are managing quite well without second-leading scorer Sancho Lyttle.

Angel McCoughtry scored 21 points, Alex Bentley had 17 points and the surging Dream improved their WNBA-leading record to 9-1 with an 86-75 victory over the Washington Mystics on Friday night.

McCoughtry, the team's leading scorer, said she sent Bentley a text message last night to encourage the rookie from Penn State to stay aggressive.

And, she certainly did.

Bentley surpassed Diana Taurasi's mark for most consecutive 3-pointers when she hit her 10th straight shot from beyond with 5:02 left in the fourth quarter. Taurasi had held the record since 2006.

"I really look up to Angel and I'm learning so much from her," Bentley said. "Coach always says that we need to come off the bench and provide energy and push the tempo. So that's what I did."

McCoughtry said Bentley and her others need to continue to play well with the absence of Lyttle, who is playing overseas for Spain's national team. Lyttle is expected to return July 9.

When Lyttle returns, McCoughtry believes the Dream will have more of a potent attack.

"Sancho is a veteran," said McCoughtry, who also had a game-high five assists and four steals. "She's doing her thing in Spain, but we've been holding it down since she's been gone. She brings a lot of agility and rebounding to our team. No one can double off of her, which makes it easier for us."

Erika De Souza finished with 12 points and nine rebounds for the Dream, off to their best start in team history. Tiffany Hayes added 13 points.

Washington scored the game's first 10 points, but the Dream tightened up defensively. Atlanta got more active on defense and cut down on allowing easy baskets, holding the Mystics to 35.1-percent shooting from the floor in the first half.

The Dream maintained the same intensity on defense in second half, taking advantage of Washington's miscues by playing the passing lanes more aggressively.

"Our inside game was not working, so we had to get aggressive defensively to create some shots for us," Dream coach Fred Williams said.

McCoughtry stripped Matee Ajavon from behind, coasting for a layup to give Atlanta a 45-30 lead in the third quarter.

De Souza scored on a put back layup to give Atlanta a 61-41 lead later in the quarter. The 5-foot-7 Bentley slipped past a defender and scored on a buzzer-beating layup at the end of the third.

The 5-foot-7 Bentley made another highlight, slipping past a defender and scoring on a buzzer-beating layup at the end of the third. The Dream took their largest lead of the game at 21 when Hayes knocked down a 3-pointer with 4:34 left in the game.

Monique Currie scored 20 points for the Mystics (4-6). Ivory Latta and Emma Meesseman each had 12 points.

"We know how to start games, but we don't know how to finish them," Latta said. "That's an area we have struggled with so far this season. It's something we have to correct."

Bentley scored seven points during a 9-2 run to give Atlanta an 18-16 lead in the first half. The Dream went on a 10-0 run to open the second quarter that was capped by Le'Coe Willingham's layup to put them ahead 30-20 with 4:35 left.