ATLANTA -- Crystal Langhorne called it a huge win for the Washington Mystics. Angel McCoughtry called it a devastating loss for the Atlanta Dream.
Either way, there was little doubt that Washington has figured out how to beat Atlanta.
"Just to come to Atlanta and get the win I think is very exciting for our team and our organization," Langhorne said. "I just think we played really well tonight, and it's good for our confidence."
Ivory Latta scored 14 points, and Langhorne and Kia Vaughn each had 12 to help the Mystics beat the Dream 71-56 in the opener of their Eastern Conference semifinals series Thursday night.
Washington, in the playoffs for the first time in three years, snapped an eight-game postseason skid dating back to Sept. 24, 2004.
The Mystics have won three straight over Atlanta following an 11-game losing streak to the Dream.
McCoughtry, the two-time WNBA scoring champion, finished with 20 points despite missing 12 of her first 14 attempts from the field.
"If we're not upset right now and embarrassed on national television, then we might as well go home now and not show up in D.C.," McCoughtry said. "Right now needs to be the turning point, this very moment."
Washington, which has won four straight overall and six of eight, can clinch the best-of-three series with a victory at home on Saturday.
The Dream shot a franchise-worst 26.7 percent and tied for their fewest points. Atlanta has lost five in a row and 17 of 24.
Washington has blossomed in its first year under coach Mike Thibault, whose team had four starters score in double figures and outrebounded Atlanta 48-36. Langhorne, a sixth-year veteran who's spent her entire career with the Mystics, had a game-high 15 boards.
"I was just trying to focus on other things and help our team win," Langhorne said. "I haven't been playing too well, so I was like, `Let me rebound, do other things, set good screens just to help our team."
The Mystics never relinquished momentum after Latta pulled up on fast break to hit a straightaway 3-pointer that made it 47-32 with 3:48 left in the third.
Dream coach Fred Williams called a timeout, but Erika de Souza followed by missing a layup, and Atlanta trailed by 23 before McCoughtry's 3 made it 57-37 at the 1:05 mark of the third.
McCoughtry sat on the bench for the final 5:50 as Williams likely wanted to rest her with the outcome all but decided and both teams playing again in two days.
"It's not about who's more talented," McCoughtry said. "It's not about who has this and that -- just the heart. Heart will win you anything. We've just got to want it more than our opponent, and they got every loose ball, they got every rebound. They just wanted it more today."
The Dream, in the playoffs for the fifth straight year, were stymied offensively as de Souza, Le'Coe Willingham, Tiffany Hayes, Aneika Henry and Alex Bentley combined to go 9 for 43.
"We played great defense tonight," Latta said. "It was stretches when we felt like an unbelievable team. I just know we had to protect the paint, and that was our main thing. We definitely tried to apply a lot of pressure on Angel and make everyone take tough shots and make sure we got the rebounds."