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Atlanta Dream start season 4-0

Photo by Gregory Smith

Photo by Gregory Smith

NEW YORK -- Although the Atlanta Dream are undefeated through four games for the first time in the franchise's three-year history, Angel McCoughtry isn't satisfied yet.

McCoughtry scored 21 points, Erika DeSouza had 15 points and 10 rebounds, and the Dream beat the New York Liberty 86-77 on Sunday. Iziane Castro Marques added 13 points, including nine in the final 5 minutes.

"(It's) the best start this team's ever had, but it's still just 4-0," said McCoughtry, the reigning Rookie of the Year. "If we get to 10-0, then I'll be like 'OK'. It's too early."

Alison Bales also had 10 rebounds to help the Dream remain one of two unbeaten teams left, along with Seattle (3-0). Atlanta finished 4-30 in its inaugural season after starting 0-17. Last year, the Dream split their first four games and didn't get their fourth victory until the eighth game.

"The more you win, the more you get confidence," McCoughtry said. "And now our confidence is shooting up right now. We feel like we're unstoppable. That's how you should feel if you're undefeated."

Atlanta beat New York for just the second time in eight meetings, and got its first win at Madison Square Garden after losing the first three trips.

"It feels awesome," Dream general manager and coach Marynell Meadors said. "We are 4-0 for the first time and making history. First time winning in the Garden is history also."

Cappie Pondexter scored 21 points to lead New York (1-2), which has lost consecutive games after winning its opener. Nicole Powell had 17 points and Janel McCarville added 16.

"The first three games we do a great job through three quarters and lately it's been the fourth quarter that's been the death of us," McCarville said. "We need to buckle down fast and basically man up. If we don't get stops on defense, we're definitely not going to win games. We've got the offensive firepower and threats on this team, and we're in a good position but late down the stretch we have to get stops."

New York faltered down the stretch for the second straight game. At Washington on Friday night, the Liberty were outscored 16-0 in the final 6 minutes after tying the score and lost 77-61 to the Mystics. Against the Dream, Powell and McCarville made jumpers nearly 1 minutes apart to tie the score at 67-67 with 5:53 left. New York was then outscored 19-10 the rest of the way.

"Every game it's come down (to the wire), even in Washington," Pondexter said. "Six minutes to go it was 61-61 and they went on a (16-0) run with one player scoring 12 points. Then we have Castro Marques tonight, who was quiet the whole night, then drills eight points. ... It can't happen."

McCoughtry made free throws and Castro Marques hit a 3-pointer to give the Dream a five-point lead with just under 5 minutes to go. Castro Marques made another 3 and a free throw to stretch the advantage to 81-75 with 53.7 seconds left.

After Taj McWilliams-Franklin's layup pulled New York within four, the Dream scored the final five points to seal the win.

The Liberty scored the first four points of the second half to take their biggest lead of the game at 46-37 on McWilliams-Franklin's layup with 8 minutes left in the third quarter.

Trailing 55-48, the Dream scored 10 consecutive points over a 1:22 stretch to take a three-point lead. Armintie Price had consecutive fastbreak layups to tie the score, and then Shalee Lehning hit a go-ahead 3-pointer with 2:29 left in the third. It was Atlanta's first lead since 4-2 a minute into the game.

"We knew we could chip it away bit by bit if we play how we're supposed to play," McCoughtry said. "We weren't playing the way we were supposed to play, and we knew they were playing their best game. So all we had to do was raise our level a little bit and get some stops, play a little defense, dig deep, show a little heart."

Bales' 3 with 1:57 left in the third pushed the Dream's advantage to 61-57.

Pondexter capped a 7-0 run with two free throws and a layup to give the Liberty a 31-23 lead, their biggest of the first half, with 5:21 to go in the second quarter.

Pondexter scored 13 points and Powell had 10 to help the Liberty take a 42-37 lead at halftime. McCoughtry led the Dream with 10 points.