ATLANTA — Now that she’s reclaimed a starting job, Sancho Lyttle is ready to give the Atlanta Dream a big boost with 14 games left in the regular season.
“It feels good,” Lyttle said. “I was told yesterday I was going to start, so I knew I just wanted to come out with full energy.”
gel McCoughtry scored 17 points, Erika de Souza added 13 and the Dream snapped a two-game losing streak with a 70-53 victory over the Seattle Storm on Sunday.
Lyttle, who missed six games this season while playing Spain’s national team and another six to recover from a back injury, had six points and seven rebounds.
Atlanta coach Marynell Meadors, however, values her for more than numbers. Lyttle’s 6-foot-4, 193-pound frame — a big reason the Dream won the Eastern Conference last year — gives the Atlanta front line a physical presence it lacked during her absence.
“Sancho is always talking to her teammates and making sure everyone is in their right place,” Meadors said. “If they are not in the right place, she will make sure to cover for them. Sancho is just a great team player and a great player to have.”
In a rematch of last year’s WNBA finals, the defending champion Storm committed 29 turnovers, tying the league’s single-game high this season. Swin Cash scored 16 points and reserve guard Katie Smith had 11 for Seattle, which ended a three-game winning streak.
Dream starting guard Armintie Price was carried off the court after twisting her left ankle late in the second quarter. She finished with eight points, four assists and three steals in 16 minutes.
X-ray results of Price’s ankle were negative, and she’s listed as day-to-day. Meadors was pleased that the loss of Price didn’t adversely affect the Dream’s transition game. It also helped that Meadors reinserted McCoughtry, the WNBA’s second-leading scorer, into the starting lineup. She came off the bench during the loss at Connecticut and a home loss to New York.
“We led from start to finish, and the most we led was by 21 points,” Meadors said. “It was a great team win because everyone made valuable contributions. Seattle fought hard, but we just outfought them.”
Cash and Sue Bird combined for 12 turnovers and five assists for the Storm, who were outscored 20-2 in second-chance points.
“We had 16 turnovers in the first half, 10 of those in the first quarter,” Seattle coach Brian Agler said. “We are not a team that can overcome stuff like that. We have to be efficient with the basketball.”
The Storm have been without All-Star center Lauren Jackson, who’s recovering from hip surgery, since June 21. She might not return until next month, but Bird doesn’t want the Storm’s concentration to lapse and fall into a low playoff seed.
“Atlanta is a very athletic team,” Bird said. “Early on, they were turning us over and turning that into points. Every time we cut the lead, they would make another run. They were pretty much in control of the game, and we never got into it.”
McCoughtry set the tone for Atlanta’s dominant second half by hitting an 8-foot runner on the first possession of the third quarter. The Dream took their first 20-pont lead on Courtney Paris’ 7-foot jumper six minutes later.
“Our goal was to be the ones to punch first, leaving them to play catch-up, and that is what we ended up doing,” Atlanta guard Lindsey Harding said. “We just need to continue to play this way.”
Seattle, which will visit New York on Tuesday, dropped to 4-8 on the road this season.
“We’ve gotten better on the road recently, but we didn’t play really well tonight,” Agler said. “Atlanta had time to prepare. I think they had four or five days to practice, and they were hungry. They see their playoff hopes in limbo so they played with a lot more urgency than we did.”
Lyttle just hopes the Dream, who begin a four-game road trip Tuesday in Washington, maintain their pace.
“We had a lot of assists, which we normally don’t have, and we had a lot of fastbreak points,” Lyttle said. “We played defense very well tonight. I just hope we can continue to do this for the next few games.”