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Harding, Dream beat slumping Fever

Photo by Christine Troyke

Photo by Christine Troyke

ATLANTA -- Defending Eastern Conference champion Atlanta won back-to-back games for the first time this season, including an impressive win over current conference leader Indiana.

Even so, All-Star Angel McCoughtry says it's too early to suggest the Dream made a statement with Tuesday's 84-74 win over the Fever.

''Not yet,'' McCoughtry said. ''The thing about it is we still haven't reached our potential. We can be so much better.''

Lindsey Harding scored 19 points to lead the Dream, who were limited by injuries and McCoughtry's foul trouble. McCoughtry scored 15 points in only 19 minutes because of early fouls.

Atlanta also was without forward Sancho Lyttle (sore back) and guard Coco Miller (sprained right ankle) and had only nine players in uniform. The Dream (5-9) remain still four games behind the Fever.

Indiana coach Lin Dunn said she was impressed with the Dream's transition game. Atlanta outscored Indiana 24-10 in fast-break points.

''Once they separated by eight to 10 points, it was really tough to overcome it with their athleticism,'' Dunn said. ''Overall their quickness, their athleticism, really bothered us.''

Tamika Catchings had 22 points and Erin Phillips had 21 for Indiana (10-6), which has lost three straight for the first time this season. Jessica Davenport added 12 points and seven rebounds for Indiana, while Katie Douglas went 1-for-8 from the field and finished with four points.

''The thing about us, we win when we have balanced scoring,'' Dunn said. ''We want five to six players in double figures.''

Atlanta coach Marynell Meadors said Harding set the pace for Atlanta's transition game. Harding is in her first season with the Dream following an offseason trade from Washington.

''Lindsey played really awesome,'' Meadors said. ''She controlled the pace of the game. We had a lot of fast breaks, and she was leading in a lot of those situations. And she distributed the ball really well to her teammates.''

Erika de Souza had 15 points and 11 rebounds and Iziane Castro Marques had 10 points for Atlanta.

''I think we're moving in the right direction,'' Harding said. ''We're building up and getting better and better but we still haven't reached our full potential.''

Atlanta led 44-36 at halftime and never trailed in the second half.

''The thing about Atlanta is that they haven't been healthy all this season, but they are extremely talented,'' Dunn said. ''And now they are starting to get Angel and Sancho back and Harding is becoming more comfortable with her team. They are starting to come together.

''You cannot judge where they are right now because they are not at full strength. But at the end of the season, if they are healthy, Atlanta could be a very dangerous team again. They are big and they have speed.''

Meadors stuck with her starters for the entire first period. McCoughtry missed her first five shots from the field but made four straight free throws to cap a 10-0 run for an early 17-9 lead. Then McCoughtry left with three fouls with 4:20 remaining in the first half.

Alison Bales hit two jumpers in another 10-0 run to give the Dream a 36-20 lead in the second period. Indiana closed the first half with a 16-8 run to trail by eight at halftime.

McCoughtry had two quick third-period baskets before she was called for an offensive foul with 6:16 remaining, sending her back to the bench for the remainder of the period with four fouls.

With McCoughtry watching, Philips scored to cut Atlanta's lead to 50-47, but the Fever couldn't complete the comeback bid. Atlanta pushed its lead to 66-56 at the end of the third period.