SEATTLE (AP) — League MVP Lauren Jackson scored 26 points, Swin Cash added 19 and the Seattle Storm moved one game away from their second WNBA title with an 87-84 win over the Atlanta Dream in Game 2 of the finals on Tuesday night.
Seattle improved to 21-0 at home this season and is hoping it won’t need another game at Key Arena. The best-of-five series resumes Thursday night in Atlanta.
Iziane Castro Marques kept Atlanta close with 21 points, before fouling out in the final minute. Castro Marques tossed in a number of one-handed runners in the second half, trying to make up for an off night from McCoughtry, who made just seven of 23 shots and finished with 21 points.
Atlanta rallied in the final 30 seconds with five quick points from McCoughtry and a jumper by Kelly Miller cutting the deficit to 87-84 with 3 seconds left.
Cash missed two free throws with 2.2 seconds to go but Atlanta could not get off a potential tying shot.
McCoughtry, averaging 28 points entering the finals, was held to just 19 points in 21 minutes in Game 1, saddled by early foul trouble and slowed when she needed stitches above her left eye following a fourth-quarter collision.
McCoughtry continued to struggle with her shot in Game 2. She missed 10 of her first 11 attempts, before hitting four straight at the end of the first half, including a falling-down 3-pointer at the halftime horn that trimmed Atlanta’s deficit to 49-47.
But McCoughtry went cold in the second half. She took just eight shots after the break and was flustered by the defense of Cash and Tanisha Wright, with the long arms of Jackson always lurking nearby.
To add insult to an already miserable night for Atlanta’s star, Camille Little forced her way through McCoughtry’s foul for a layup with 4:11 left and an eight-point Seattle lead.
Wright added 17 points for Seattle and Bird, whose 16-footer with 2 seconds left won Game 1 for Seattle, added 10 points.
Bird helped turn back the Dream in the third quarter when Atlanta tried taking control, and Cash made an open 3-pointer with 2:30 left in the game to give Seattle an 81-73 lead.
Thanks to an array of running one-handers from Castro Marques — formerly with Seattle — the Dream took a 62-59 lead and had possession with less than 4 minutes left in the third quarter. Bird drove for a layup, found Jackson on a fast break for another layup and added a left-handed drive to retake the lead. Le’coe Willingham added a quick baseline spin and basket at the end of the third to give Seattle a 69-65 advantage.
Seattle was poised to turn Game 2 into a rout in the second quarter. With Bird and Jackson on the bench, Cash scored 10 points in less than four minutes as Seattle surged to a 34-28 lead. The advantage grew to eight — the biggest of the half — when Wright tossed in a desperation 3 as the shot clock expired, followed with another open jumper and Jackson added a free throw.
McCoughtry and Castro Marques combined for the final 12 points of the half for Atlanta.