INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - The Atlanta Dream hope to get a lift from a win against their possible opponent in the first round of the playoffs.
Angel McCoughtry scored 20 points and Lindsey Harding added 17 to lead the Dream to an 86-80 win over the Indiana Fever on Saturday night. Erika DeSouza had 14 points and six rebounds and Iziane Castro Marques scored 11 points to help fourth-place Atlanta (15-13) moved one game behind New York in the Eastern Conference.
``It was really a hard fought game,' Dream coach Marynell Meadors said. ``Both teams played aggressive and physical. It was a tuneup for the playoffs. Our young players grew up. I was pleased with our composure and poise.'
Harding and Castro Marques each scored nine points in the fourth quarter and combined to scored eight of the final 11 points for the defending East champions.
``We knew in the second half we had to dig down deep,' McCoughtry said. ``We've had lots of game like this, so we are ready for the pressure and how to take care of the game when it's on the line.'
Harding, the only player to play all 40 minutes, scored the go ahead jumper with 37 seconds left to give Atlanta an 82-80 lead, then went 1 for 2 from the line.
``I feel really good and it was a great win for us,' Harding said. ``We almost gave it away in the third quarter. We knew they were going to come out in a full court press, so we were ready for them.'
Tamika Catchings scored 22 points, Tangela Smith had 15 and Katie Douglas 14 for the Fever (19-9), who could have clinched their seventh straight playoff berth. Indiana's lead over second-place Connecticut was cut to one game.
The Fever went from being down 10 points at the start of the third quarter to tying the score late in the period and taking a lead to start the fourth.
``When you dig yourself into a hole that big against a great team like that, it's hard,' Catchings said. ``It takes a lot of energy. Even besides that, we still had a chance to win.'
The Dream jumped to a 12-3 lead to start the game before Indiana pulled within three as Smith, Douglas and Catchings hit 3's for Indiana first nine points of the game.
Indiana shot just 30 percent from the field in the first half and trailed by 10 as Atlanta shot 53 percent.
``We dug ourselves into a hole in the first half,' Fever coach Lin Dunn said. ``We played much better in the second. We matched their intensity in the second half. At the end of the day, Lindsey Harding was the difference.'
The Fever shot just 39 percent on the night and the Dream finished at 55 percent.
Indiana can clinch its postseason berth if Chicago loses against New York on Sunday or if the Fever win at Atlanta on Tuesday night.
The Associated Press News Service
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