WASHINGTON (AP) — After getting outrebounded in a double-digit loss to Washington at home in the series opener, the Atlanta Dream returned the favor in Game 2.
Angel McCoughtry scored 20 points as a controlling first half and dominant fourth quarter led the Dream to a 63-45 victory over the Mystics on Saturday night, evening their Eastern Conference semifinals series.
Erika DeSouza had 11 points and 15 rebounds, and Aneika Henry added 10 points and 12 rebounds for Atlanta, which had a 17-9 scoring edge in both the both the first and fourth quarters.
Atlanta had lost five straight games and 17 of 24 — including Game 1 at home on Thursday night — but led this one 36-21 at halftime and by 21 points in the second half.
"We wanted to come with a mindset that we were going to come out aggressive and not let them stomp on us like they did last game," said McCoughtry, who scored 11 points in the first quarter. "We came out to a great start and it carried throughout the game."
Outrebounded by 48-36 margin in the 71-56 loss in Game 1, the Dream finished with a 53-30 rebounding advantage in the rematch, including 18-6 on offensive boards.
Tayler Hill led the Mystics with 11 points. With a chance to close out the series at home, Washington shot a season-low 25 percent (14 of 56) from the field. The Mystics had won four straight and six of eight including their first playoff game since 2010.
Before the game, Mystics coach Mike Thibault was honored with his third WNBA Coach of the Year award.
"A little different postgame than pregame," Thibault said of the atmosphere in the media room. "I don't know if it was nerves, but that's the worst offensively we've played all year."
Atlanta hosts the decisive Game 3 on Monday night.
The Dream's rebounding total was their best of the season and helped offset their own shooting woes.
Two-time WNBA scoring champion McCoughtry had another rough shooting night, finishing 6 for 23 before fouling out in the final minute. She had a 6-for-20 effort in Game 1.
"All right, as long we got this one tonight. ... That's all that matters," McCoughtry said. "We'll figure that out. You can always get another shot."
She picked up her fifth foul 35 seconds into the fourth quarter after Atlanta entered the final period leading 46-36.
Despite McCoughtry sitting out a stretch of the fourth, the Mystics failed to cut the deficit into single digits, scoring only two points during the first 5:25 of the quarter.
"We did an even better job on her probably tonight then we probably did the other night," Thibault said. "Got her in foul trouble and didn't take advantage. They played hard but we were our own worst enemy."
Washington struggled all around with its shooting, finishing 13 for 24 on free throws and 14 for 56 (25 percent) from the field — including 5 for 31 from the starting five. Second-leading scorer Crystal Langhorne missed three shots during a scoreless 24 minutes.
In her second start of the season, Henry made her first four shots from the field and finished with her first career double-double. She started in place of forward Le'coe Willingham, who did not play after suffering a right knee injury after the series opener.
"I thought Aneika Henry did a great job of coming in," Dream coach Fred Williams said. "She stepped her game tonight and Erika is Miss Double-Double."
The Mystics opened the game missing eight straight shots and ended the first quarter clanking their final seven attempts. Washington's starting frontcourt went 0 for 13 in the half.
McCoughtry outscored Washington 11-9 in the opening quarter and finished with 13 first half points despite shooting 4 for 14 from the field.
Arminitie Herrington's layup with 0.5 seconds remaining in the half gave Atlanta its 15-point lead at the break.
Williams called Willingham "doubtful" for Game 3.