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WNBA

Mercury-Dream Preview

Having secured the WNBA's No. 1 overall seed, the Phoenix Mercury can focus solely on preparing for the playoffs.

They have a chance to make some history before they get there.

With Atlanta's Angel McCoughtry likely out of the lineup, the Mercury can tie the league's single-season wins mark by adding to the Dream's lengthy skid and potentially spoiling their attempt to wrap up the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference on Wednesday night.

Phoenix (27-4) claimed home-court advantage throughout the playoffs with its 21st win in 22 games and fifth in a row Tuesday, 76-64 at New York. Candice Dupree scored 18 points to move into 20th place on the league's career scoring list and help the Mercury add another victory to the best season in franchise history.

"We have good chemistry," coach Sandy Brondello said. ''We have intelligent players, and good players, which certainly helps what we're doing. ... They buy into what we want to do, they play very hard and they're very unselfish. That's been the key."

They can gain a share of the WNBA's all-time mark by beating Atlanta (17-14) for the second time in nine days. Los Angeles had 28 wins in 2000 and 2001, and Seattle matched that in 2010.

Phoenix appears to have a good shot at joining those clubs against a team that's 0-5 this month - the Dream's longest losing streak since a 10-game skid in 2008 - and likely won't have its leading scorer available because of tendinitis in her feet.

McCoughtry, averaging 19.0 points, sat out an 80-69 loss to Chicago on Sunday that concluded a four-game trip. The Dream shot 36.2 percent and failed to top 40 percent in each game on their trek.

They shot a season-low 34.2 percent in their third straight loss to Phoenix, 75-67 on Aug. 5, and Brittney Griner blocked nine shots while finishing with 14 points and nine rebounds.

Despite its recent losses, Atlanta still leads Washington by two games in the East with three to play for both clubs. The Mystics host Chicago on Wednesday afternoon, and Atlanta would secure the conference's top seed if Washington loses or with a win over Phoenix.

The Dream have dropped nine of 11 with all but one of those games coming after the team announced that coach Michael Cooper was diagnosed with early stage tongue cancer July 21.

"Our decline started when my sickness happened," said Cooper, who underwent a surgical procedure July 24. ''We were playing good basketball up until that point. I'm not saying that's any excuse, but we had great momentum going a little bit into the All-Star game. When this happens, there's always a change and it's difficult for a team."

The Dream will play their next two games at home, where they are 11-4. They've played just twice at Philips Arena since July 5 and were forced to hold three games at Georgia Tech's McCamish Pavilion because of a scheduling conflict.

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