Atlanta has enjoyed a "dream" season so far in 2018, but the good feelings from clinching a playoff berth for the first time since 2016 were tempered a bit on Tuesday during the Dream's record-setting 109-100 win over Las Vegas.
Atlanta will look to keep its considerable momentum when it hosts the Los Angeles Sparks on Thursday in a key showdown at McCamish Pavilion on the campus of Georgia Tech University in Atlanta.
The Dream were awakened like a slap in the face when All-Star guard Angel McCoughtry went down with a left knee injury with about five minutes to play in Tuesday's victory.
McCoughtry was helped off the court by several teammates and didn't return. Atlanta finished off the game with a 16-6 run to win for the 11th time in 12 games and further cement its status in second-place in the league standings with about two weeks remaining in the regular season.
After the game, Atlanta coach Nicki Collen said McCoughtry would undergo further evaluation but added that the injury wasn't believed to be serious.
"Hopefully it's just a little bit of a hyperextension," Collen said. "We'll be smart with Angel and certainly not push her if she's not ready."
Elizabeth Williams and Alex Bentley each poured in 22 points while Tiffany Hayes added 21 for Atlanta (19-10) in the win over Las Vegas. The Dream shot 54 percent in the victory and established a franchise-record with its 109 points.
The Sparks (18-11), who have already clinched their seventh straight postseason berth, head to Atlanta after defeating New York 82-81 on Wednesday in Westchester County behind 19 points from Chelsea Gray.
Nneka Ogwumike added 18 points for Los Angeles while Candace Parker scored 13, Riquna Williams hit for 12 and Essence Carson tallied 10 for the Sparks. Free throws by Gray and Ogwumike in the final seconds proved the difference for Los Angeles, which was outshot 48 to 44 percent by the hapless Liberty and lost the rebounding battle 42-31.
Los Angeles, which is tied for third place and competing for one of the four spots that earn first-round playoff byes, has won three straight contests since losing to the Dream at home on July 24. Four of the Sparks' final five games are on the road.
The last three wins were achieved with center Ogwumike back in the lineup. She has totaled 47 points and 18 rebounds since returning from a three-game absence due to an illness.
"Every game for the rest of the season will have playoff implications, and there is still a lot of basketball to be played," Sparks coach Brian Agler told WNBA.com. "We're glad to have everybody back, and hopefully, we can keep moving forward."
The teams have split their two games so far this season -- both of which were played in Los Angeles -- with the Sparks winning 72-64 on June 12 and Atlanta capturing a 81-71 victory two weeks 17 days ago.
The Dream leads the overall series between the two teams 15-8, with an 8-3 edge in games played in Atlanta.