Wings Soaring Behind Defense and Chemistry

 

By Dorothy J. Gentry

 

With a little less than five minutes to go in the first half, the Dallas Wings were already up 18 on the Phoenix Mercury.

Skylar Diggins-Smith had just received a technical when her solo celebration of her just-made layup accidentally got a little too close to the face of Briann January.

January made the foul shot. Leilani Mitchell missed a step-back jump shot and Dallas’ Glory Johnson grabbed the rebound. (She would go on to lead the team with 9 boards for the night.)

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On the very next possession, Diggins-Smith went all in on a reverse layup and scored the basket. (She finished the game with 20 points, her ninth time this season scoring 20-plus points.)

And that was the moment that the Mercury, the raucous crowd that braved an afternoon thunderstorm, and the WNBA realized - the Wings are contenders.

Just like that, the Wings who defeated the Mercury, 101-72, have won four straight and find themselves tied with the Minnesota Lynx for fifth place in the WNBA.

In addition, the four-game win streak ties the longest win streak since the franchise moved to the Dallas-Fort Worth area three years ago.

If the playoffs started today, the 11-8 Wings would be in the house. The tide has shifted. The momentum pendulum is swinging their way. And it couldn’t have happened to a more talented team. In just the right way at just the right time.

“I’m just proud of how these young ladies have stepped up and started this streak. I think a lot of people were asking when it was going to happen. And it’s starting to happen now,” head coach Fred Williams said. “We’re playing a lot of games. Our games are our practices now, and watching film and paying attention to detail. Plus, they’re getting to know each other a little bit more.

“My whole staff is doing a great job preparing them for practice and games. What I am stressing more is defense; how we play the ball, off screens and once that gets locked in with any team that makes you better in percentage on the win side.”

Wings guard Allisha Gray said the chemistry between the team has been a key to the win streak.

“We’re just playing together. Everyone is clicking and playing as one, playing as a team. Everyone is playing within themselves and it is working. It obviously shows that team chemistry is going well (due to the 4-game win streak) and we’re playing together as a team.

Liz Cambage, who finished the night with 13 points to mark her 19th consecutive game reaching double figures, said: “We’ve been very up and down trying to find some consistency and I think we’re finally meshing offensively and defensively as a team.”

Despite the obvious adrenalin rush that can run through a team’s collective veins in the midst of success, the Wings are remaining humble and taking it one game at a time.

“Taking one game at a time and staying locked in, every game we play,” Williams said in answer to how they move forward with this momentum. “On any given night a team can beat you in this League if you come out flat.

“But our main focus is just to come out one game at a time. Focus on what we need to do in the moment of that game,” he said.

Williams said that the most important takeaways from the four-game win streak is the team chemistry and their defensive play.

“The team unity is key. The team is high-fiving each other, enjoying stepping up and when the subs come in and benefiting from the minutes they get. It’s important.

“We are also starting to gel a bit more on defense, stopping the ball and not fouling so much.”

Wings forward Azura Stevens on what the team can do to continue the win streak: “Just stay focused on what we’re doing on defense. We’re staying disciplined on offense but I really think it’s our defense that has helped us a lot. If we look at what other teams do, we know we are going to score so that’s all we have to do.”

The Wings head west for a two-game road trip against the Los Angeles Sparks on Thursday and the Seattle Storm on Saturday.

The Wings have been hitting on all cylinders lately and the four-game win streak is a TOTAL team effort as this team shows day in and day out, they’ve got each other’s backs. Assists, lobs, great passes, finishing up plays, celebrating each other, encouraging each other and a bench that’s playing lights out.

The Dallas Wings are coming.