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Holdsclaw, Lyttle lead Atlanta past Mystics

Jul 4, 2009 - 3:16 AM ATLANTA(AP) -- Chamique Holdsclaw knows the condition of her right knee could make or break the Atlanta Dream's season.

Eleven games into her WNBA comeback, however, Holdsclaw likes the team's chances.

"I'm an important player for this team," she said. "I'm not always able to fully practice because of my injuries, but I feel good and I'm happy for my team. One thing about us win or lose, we stick together."

Holdsclaw scored 18 points, and Sancho Lyttle added 16, helping Atlanta snap a two-game losing streak with a 72-65 victory over the Washington Mystics on Friday night.

Alana Beard had 16 points for Washington, which has dropped three of four and missed its first nine 3-point attempts before Matee Ajavon hit two straight in the final 2 minutes. The Mystics began the game with the WNBA's third-best percentage beyond the arc at 39.4.

Holdsclaw, a former No. 1 overall draft pick for Washington in 1999, is slowly coming back to the form that made her one of the league's elite players and a gold medalist on the U.S. Olympic team the following year. Chronic knee tendinitis, however, affected her last two WNBA seasons with Los Angeles (2006-07), when she started just five of 30 games.

She still has problems with her right knee, which required arthroscopic surgery after a stint in Poland.

"I'm coming off the surgery, and my knee is still not 100 percent when I step out on the court," Holdsclaw said. "I have to do what I can."

Washington coach Julie Plank, upset with her players' defensive performance, held her team in the locker room longer than expected after the game.

"When you are down, you have to be more aggressive defensively," Plank said. "We forced turnovers, got some stops, got out in transition and started taking it to the basket (after trailing by 17 points). We have a team that wants to keep fighting and has a lot of pride."

A sprained left ankle has sidelined Washington's Marissa Coleman, who still leads the rookie class with a 12.7 scoring average, for the last eight games.

The Dream, who had lost four of five, forced Washington into 28 turnovers, a season high for the Mystics that resulted in 23 points. After winning just four games as an expansion team last year, Atlanta improved to 5-6 this season.

"We're searching for an identity that we want to be known for," Holdsclaw said. "The thing that we can control is we can fight against the other team and fight for each other. We won our first game (in the opener) with our new identity, and we just have to keep it going."

Beard's runner at 1:54 of the third quarter cut the lead to four, but the Dream went on a 14-1 run that ended when Michelle Snow's 10-footer made it 64-47 with 5:49 remaining.

Atlanta's Angel McCoughtry, who ranked fourth among rookies with a 9.4 average as the No. 1 overall pick, finished with 14 points in a reserve role.

"I think what's happening with Angel is she needs more minutes," Dream coach Marynell Meadors said. "The longer she plays, the better she gets. She has such great potential that she's going to be a great player in this league and a great player for us."

Lindsey Harding finished with 11 points for the Mystics. Crystal Langhorne added 10.

Holdsclaw, who added eight assists, had a steal and a fast-break layup to give the Dream a nine-point lead with 7:10 left in the third period. She added a 16-footer a minute later to make it 46-37.

The Mystics fell to 3-1 this season when outrebounding opponents. They had 40 boards, led by Chasity Melvin's nine. Atlanta finished with 29 rebounds.

Beard, who was 7 for 16 from the field, had three assists and six turnovers.

Earlier Friday, the Dream revamped their backcourt, signing Ivory Latta and waiving Nikki Teasley. Latta started 31 of 34 games for Atlanta last year, averaging 11.4 points, 3.6 assists and 1.2 turnovers.

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