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Dream Vs. Liberty: Angel McCoughtry, Lindsay Harding Set To Open 2011 Campaign Against New York

The Atlanta Dream will begin their 2011 season today against the New York Liberty at Philips Arena. Prior to tip off today, Atlanta will unveil its 2010 Eastern Conference championship banner that will be raised to the Philips Arena rafters. After the banner raising, the Dream hope to begin their journey to a WNBA championship. 

Atlanta returns all of its major contributors from last season's team. Angel McCoughtry is back and poised to make a run at this season's MVP award. McCoughtry finished last season averaging 21.1 points per game and took her game to another level in the playoffs. McCoughtry combines with running mate Iziane Castro Marques who averaged just under 17 points a game last season to give the Dream a solid one two punch in the scoring department. 

Sancho Lyttle and Erika de Souza give Atlanta a lot of size and strength on the interior and Allison Bales provides depth off of the bench. The biggest difference in this season's team and last however is at the point guard position. During the off season, Atlanta acquired All-Star guard Lindsey Harding to come in and stabilize the point guard position for the Dream. Harding has career averages of 11 points and four assists per game and adds just another element to the Dream's attack. 

Head coach and general manager Marynell Meadors has assembled an impressive and deep squad that should be in the mix for for the Eastern Conference championship yet again. 

Atlanta's opponent today is a familiar one. The Dream defeated the New York Liberty 2-0 in the Eastern Conference Finals last season to advance to the WNBA Finals against Seattle. The Liberty return a core that went 21-12 during the regular season in 2010. 

Cappie Pondexter is the focal point of the New York attack leading the team with 21.4 points and 4.9 assists per game last season. Pondexter isn't just a gunner on offense as her 48 percent shooting from the floor suggests. Second leading scorer Taj McWilliams-Franklin bolted during the offseason and leaves a void in the middle. 

Leilani Mitchell also returns for the Liberty after capturing last season's most improved player award. A three-point marksman, Mitchell connected on 48 percent of her attempts from beyond the arc last season. 

Tip off for today's game is scheduled for 3 p.m. today and can be seen on SportSouth. The Championship banner festivities are scheduled to take place before tip off. 

For more on women's basketball, the WNBA, and the Atlanta Dream be sure and check out Swish Appeal. 

Photographs by coka_koehler used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.