De Souza scored 20 of her career high-tying 27 points in the final 20 minutes to lead the Atlanta Dream to a 93-85 win over the Los Angeles Sparks on Tuesday night.
Lyttle added 10 of her 18 in the second half as the Dream scored a season-high 68 points in the paint and outscored L.A. by 20 from within the lane.
Atlanta coach Michael Cooper was not surprised.
“In taking this job, those were some of the things that I liked,” said Cooper, who coached the Sparks to WNBA titles in 2001 and ’02. “With Sancho, Erika, Anieka (Henry), and Nadia (Colhado), you have people who can get paint points and work well in the high-low action in the high post. I thought we did well in that regard.”
De Souza, who led the WNBA last season with 18 double-doubles, grabbed 11 rebounds for her third of the season as the Dream (4-3) held off a rally by the Sparks (2-3).
Atlanta led 75-62 when Angel McCoughtry hit a pair of free throws with 1:32 left in the third quarter, but the visitors carried play for much of the next 10 minutes. McCoughtry finished with 14 points.
Jantel Lavender scored a season-high 21 points for Los Angeles, and Nneka Ogwumike had 19 points and 21 rebounds for the Sparks while Candace Parker had 15.
Parker, however, went cold in the second half.
She entered the game second in the WNBA in scoring at 24 points a game, and she scored 13 in the first half. She shot just 1-for-7 in the second half, however, and the Dream rode de Souza and Lyttle after halftime.
The Sparks drew as close as 83-82 on Ogwumike’s layup with 3:20 left in the game, but de Souza countered quickly with a layup at the other end on one of rookie reserve point guard Shoni Schimmel’s seven assists to start Atlanta 12-3 closing rush.
“We gave up 68 points in the paint. That has to be a WNBA record,” Parker said. “They were 34-for-46 (in the paint). You’re not going to beat anyone giving that up.”
The Dream trailed 23-18 after a quarter, but their quick 14-0 run in the middle of the second quarter changed the game.
De Souza’s three-point play with 8:46 left in the half pulled Atlanta within 27-23 to trigger the Dream burst, and when reserve guard Matee Ajavon popped a jumper with 6:04 left in the period, the home team led 34-27. The Sparks missed six straight shots — most of them early in the shot clock — during Atlanta’s rally.
“Sometimes, you hit that trick wall, but we just kept fighting,” de Souza said of the Dream’s ability to bounce back. “When you hit that wall, you just have to try and climb over it. I feel like we didn’t get down on ourselves.”
McCoughtry picked up her fourth foul with 17 seconds left in the third period, and she fouled out 3:59 left in the game. It was the fifth time in her career that she fouled out.
The Dream’s 93 points were a season high, and so was their 53.4-percent shooting percentage
(39-for-73) despite a 3-for-13 night from beyond the arc).
Rookie point guard Celine Dumerc, who joined the Dream on Sunday after fulfilling her European commitment, went scoreless without an assist in six first-half minutes.
Cooper anticipates the French Olympic star competing to become the Dream’s starting point guard.