Dream’s frustration shows after losing 3 of last 4 games

 

By Chris Kwiecinski

 

 Photo: dkesports

Photo: dkesports

You wouldn’t believe it, but at one point the Atlanta Dream held a double-digit lead over the Chicago Sky on Wednesday.

This was with leading-scorer Angel McCoughtry not having scored a point and second leading-scorer Tiffany Hayes missing her third-straight game with an ankle injury.

Yet, the Sky would up winning by double digits themselves, 93-80. The Dream’s offense didn’t falter. In fact, it was better than it’s been on average all season.

Atlanta watched its game shooting percentage rise from from 43.2 percent to 44.8 by the end of the game, and scored about six more points than its season average. It was due to rare lapses in the Dream’s defense, which is its calling card.

Statistically, Atlanta’s defense is among the best in the WNBA with a defensive rating of 93.6. Dream coach Nicki Collen even said defense is what the team is hanging its hat on when it steps on the court every game.

“With our length and athleticism, I think it’s what’s gotten us to seven wins,” Collen said. “We certainly would’ve felt like if we got to 80 points today that we would’ve won the game.” That certainly looked like the case early on against the Sky. Diamond DeShields, Chicago’s premier rookie, was 2 of 13 shooting at halftime and the Dream held onto a 38-30 lead.

However, in the second half the Sky’s offense flipped a switch, as DeShields scored 19 points and finished with 23. The Sky’s Allie Quigley also had a hot hand in the second half, scoring 18 second-half points to finish with 22.

In all, the Sky scored a staggering 63 second-half points to beat an Atlanta team that was statistically better in nearly every category. “They did a good job of slipping out of their actions and getting some easy ones at the rim,” Collen said. “They picked our defense out and got us spread out.”

Granted, the Sky are completely healthy for the first time this season, were coming off a win over the Phoenix Mercury at home on Sunday and played better than any of their current statistics indicated.

But this was different.

The Dream were obviously frustrated after losing a game to the team that’s sitting in the bottom half of the playoff standings, and it showed.

Two technicals were called on the Dream Wednesday; one was on Elizabeth Williams and the other was on Renee Montgomery. When asked about why she was assessed a technical, Montgomery, who led all Dream players with 19 points, said she was told she got up too aggressively.

That’s all she would say about it, too, as she looked and said “end quote” while walking back into the Atlanta locker room. McCoughtry also didn’t hold much back while expressing her frustration after the game.

“We have to stop taking these games for granted, or we’re not going to make the playoffs,” McCoughtry, who shot 1 of 11, said. “We have to start appreciating this game, and treating the game as if it’s a job that we go to from nine to five.”

It’s easy to speculate that Hayes, who is also arguably the Dream’s best defender, would have made the difference in this game. Hayes has scored 20 or more points in six of the 11 games she’s played in. “She’s so slippery, she’s so hard to screen and she’s our leading scorer,” Collen said. “We have to get healthy for sure to really make a push.”

It would be easy to say the Dream could focus on its defense in order to push towards securing a playoff spot. But, the team’s top defensive rating is outdone by its offensive rating that sits at 89.2. That sits at the bottom of the league.

Getting Hayes back, on both sides of the ball, is obviously crucial for the frustrated Atlanta team that left Chicago on Wednesday. But the Dream’s struggles exist in more than one area, and have their work cut out for them as the team travels to Minnesota to take on a surging Lynx team on Friday. “Some days a team just beats you, and they definitely did that today,” Collen said. But to McCoughtry, the job is simple. “Yeah, we can get stops,” she said. “We got to score the basketball.”