The Atlanta Dream are looking to clinch a spot in the 2011 WNBA Playoffs with a victory today over the Tulsa Shock at Philips Arena. Atlanta could also clinch a playoff spot if the Indiana Fever defeat the Chicago Sky later this afternoon.
Since a 3-9 start to the season, Atlanta has been among the best teams in the WNBA digging themselves out of an early hole to put themselves in position to clinch a playoff berth. The Dream are coming off of a 95-73 victory over Washington on Friday and have won four of their last five games and four straight at Philips Arena.
Angel McCoughtry has been the focal point of an Atlanta offensive attack that is averaging 82.4 points per game this season. McCoughtry herself is second in the league in scoring trailing only Phoenix's Diana Taurasi at 20.9 points per game. In her last match up against the Shock, McCoughtry scored a regular season career-high 37 points in a 76-68 Atlanta victory.
Scoring hasn't been a problem for the Dream on most nights and their defense could get a boost today with the potential return of Erika de Souza to the lineup. De Souza has sat out the Dream's last two games after suffering an ankle injury in a victory over Indiana. Allison Bales got the start in de Souza's absence last time out and responded with a career-high 15 points in the victory over Washington.
It has been a lost season in Tulsa that has been marred by a coaching change and a record 20 game losing streak. After starting the season 1-10, Nolan Richardson resigned as head coach of the Shock with former University of Georgia star Teresa Edwards taking over the reigns. Tulsa then suffered through the record breaking losing streak before rallying to win two straight games. They enter today's game against the Dream with a league worst 3-27 record.
At 17-14, the Atlanta Dream are just one game behind the New York Liberty for third place in the Eastern Conference. The Liberty host the WNBA best Minnesota Lynx today but New York holds the tie breaker advantage over the Dream. After today's match up against the Shock, Atlanta's remaining two games are against the two best teams in the Eastern Conference. The Dream will host Connecticut on Tuesday before wrapping up the regular season in Indiana on Sunday.
For more on the Atlanta Dream and the WNBA Playoff chase, be sure and check out SB Nation's women's basketball blog Swish Appeal.