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Atlanta Dream all-star Angel McCoughtry to miss playoffs with torn ligaments in knee, changing the WNBA playoff outlook

The Dream will have a tough time replacing her scoring with little time before the postseason starts.

Atlanta Dream v Minnesota Lynx - Game Two Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

Atlanta Dream all-star forward Angel McCoughtry will miss the rest of the season and the playoffs with torn ligaments in her knee, the team announced Thursday. McCoughtry suffered the injury in the fourth quarter of the team’s win over the Las Vegas Aces on Tuesday.

Here’s the play where she was injured:

This is a crushing loss for Atlanta, a team that has caught fire at the perfect time ahead of the playoffs, going 9-1 in its last 10 games. The WNBA plays a 34-game regular season.

“I want to thank all the fans, my coaching staff and teammates for giving me the chance to come back and play for the Dream this season,” McCoughtry said in a release. “I am disappointed with the injury but I believe our team is in good hands. We have a supportive group and a lot of goals to still accomplish. I plan to be there every step of the way to help us reach them. I appreciate everyone and know I will come back stronger than ever.”

Why Angel McCoughtry’s injury is so devastating

McCoughtry took last season off from the WNBA, and her team floundered out of the playoffs. With her back in the lineup, and the emergence of all-star snub Tiffany Hayes, Atlanta became a basketball powerhouse again out of nowhere with a better record than the perennial Finals contender Minnesota Lynx and Los Angeles Sparks.

McCoughtry has been one of the league’s best scorers for nearly a decade. This season she was averaging 17 points per game — second on the team behind Hayes — with six rebounds and three assists per game. She’s been the Dream’s centerpiece since they drafted her, and finally it seemed the team surrounded her with the right talent to potentially win its first-ever championship.

The team is 19-10 with sole possession of the the coveted No. 2 seed in the playoffs right now, with five games left in the regular season. Earning a high seed in the playoffs is so important, because the WNBA gives byes to its top four seeds. The No. 1 and No. 2 seeds are given double-byes, and don’t have to play any single-elimination playoff games while the No. 3 and No. 4 seeds have to play just one single-elimination game.

For Atlanta to pull this off, it’ll have to look for Hayes to step up even more in the scoring department, and find a boost down low from former Most Improved Player Elizabeth Williams. Offseason acquisition Renee Montgomery and mid-season pick-up Alex Bentley will need to provide a spark from the backcourt, too.

This playoff run had promise. Now it’ll be a heck of a lot more difficult.