WNBA

Atlanta Dream Showed Grit, Resilience in Season-Opener

ATLANTA – The Atlanta Dream can dream on after an exciting 76-72-win Friday night in their home
opener against the Dallas Wings. Atlanta took advantage of a Wings team that was without their star-
studded point guard Skylar Diggins-Smith but still had to show resilience down the stretch after a
dominant first quarter. The Dream was up by as much as nine points in the first period and saw their lead
vanish by halftime.
“I think we got off to such a good start that there was a little bit of a feeling that it was going to be an easy
night,” said Atlanta Dream coach Nicki Collen to reporters after the game. “It’s just never an easy night in
this league. You just don’t see a lot of blowout wins in the WNBA. You can get up 20 and before you
know it it’s six. You have to grind wins out in this league because everybody’s good.”
Jessica Breland led the way for the Dream with 17 points and six rebounds. Her presence was crucial to
the Dream surmounting a six-point deficit with just over two minutes left to play in the game. With
Brittany Sykes at the free throw line after being fouled on a three-point play, the Dream had a prime
opportunity to tie the game. Sykes made two out of three shots at the line, but Breland came up with the
most significant offensive rebound of the game after Sykes missed the last free throw. Breland’s rebound
led to an easy layup for the 6-foot-2 forward which essentially gave the Dream a triumphant victory.
The Wings’ leading scorer was Alisha Gray who shot 57 percent from the floor, 66.7 percent from three
to go along with four assists. Gray had support from a player that surprised many in her first WNBA
game. The rookie guard from Notre Dame Arike Ogunbowale had an impressive debut finishing with 12
points and four rebounds.
The Dream’s offense would have been better with Angle McCoughtry in the rotation. Aside from
Breland (17), Renee Montgomery (15) and Sykes (10) scoring in double figures, the Dream struggled
shooting from the floor.
The Dream shot just 43 percent from the floor, and even worse they shot a miserable 27 percent from
three. It’s possible when McCoughtry returns, Collen’s offense will be more fluid. Until then, players like
Sykes and Nia Coffey will have to play significant minutes and produce buckets for the Dream.
It’s the little things that made a big difference in the Dream’s first game of the season. The
turnovers, missed free throws and rebounding almost led to a disappointing loss to begin the season for
Atlanta. Collectively, the Dream had 15 turnovers, five coming in the first quarter. By halftime, they had
seven turnovers. Not to mention, Dallas took advantage of their mistakes and pushed the floor in
transition, which led to easy buckets at the other end of the floor.
As for the free throws, the Dream would not have been trailing going into halftime if they took advantage
at the line. They trailed 34-39 at halftime and were 8-12 from the charity stripe (66.7 percent). Dallas was
a perfect 6-6 from the line up to that point. Also, the rebounding differential was alarming. The Wings
outrebounded the Dream 42-29. Crashing the boards led to several second-chance opportunities for Dallas
and ultimately gave them a chance to steal their first game on the road. Thankfully for Atlanta, the
defense made plays in the latter part of the game to start their season off on a positive note.

“We’ve come back enough, and we know that when we need stops late that we tend to get them,” Collen
said. “You saw us really lock in defensively, make shots hard. … You erase a six-point lead in a hurry
when, one, you get a good open shot for your best three-point shooter and then you do what you do, and
you battle on the boards.”

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