The Atlanta Dream come into today’s game with a record (5-7) for the season thus far. While that’s dead last in the Eastern Conference, the East is wide-open for anyone to take. The first place Connecticut Sun sit with a (7-3) record, so any team could go on a 3 to 5 game win streak and snatch the top spot.
The Dream starters included: Angel McCoughtry, Erika de Souza, Sydney Carter, Tiffany Hayes, and Cierra Burdick.
The lineup looks a bit different this season. Coach Cooper opted for a fresh look this go-round which featured newcomer Sydney Carter and Rookie Cierra Burdick. The lineup is solid and the Dream will have some tough opponents to face this season, as the East grew stronger after this year’s draft. The New York Liberty for example, drafted 3 solid rookies in Rebecca Allen, Brittany Boyd, and Kiah Stokes, and traded for former Chicago standout Epiphanny Prince.
It was a heavily contested match from the start. Both teams went back-and-forth on offense and defense. Turnovers were plentiful thanks to the part of solid defense, and whenever the Liberty scored, the Dream would respond immediately. Sierra Burdick had a great 1st Quarter racking up a team-high 10 points for the Dream.
Swin Cash and Tina Charles were leading the charge for the NY Liberty combining for 10 points and an assist.
Angel McCoughtry had a busy afternoon in the assist category. She had a team-high 4 assists in the 1st Half and contributed equally in scoring (having 8 points). It was a rough start for Center Erika de Souza. She had multiple chances under the rim but converted very few into points. She had a very impactful 5 rebounds but with her size, she could do better.
The Dream confidently left the floor up 44-32 over the 2nd place NY Liberty to end the 1st Half.
The 3rd Quarter couldn’t have begun worse for the Dream. Their 12 point lead was narrowed all the way down to 2 after the Liberty put on the pressure. Tina Charles willed her team back into contention with the help of Brittany Boyd and Epiphanny Prince.
The roles were reversed in the 2nd Half for Angel and crew. Her assist numbers stalled and immediately started scoring. She went from 8 points in the 2nd Quarter to 27 midway through the 4th. Cierra Burdick couldn’t continue her dominance into the 2nd Half and didn’t score again (after leading the team with 10 points in the 1st Half).
Watching the Dream gave me chilling flashbacks of watching Georgia Tech Men’s Basketball. They were a team with heart that didn’t have big names like other ACC teams (think Duke, Wake Forest, UNC). I wrote an article during their ACC Tournament adventure that mentioned half of their losses should’ve been wins because they lose by 5 points or less. The losses came from their inability to finish. That seems to be what’s plaguing the Dream. Atlanta came out strong and dominated every aspect of the game until the 4th Quarter. With 5:47 left in the game the Dream were now down 67-68 to the Liberty.
The officiating wasn’t helping either, making an even tougher hill to climb. Tiffany Hayes had fouled out after catching 2 quick, questionable fouls in less than a minute. Missed opportunities began to plague their game and the girls were missing everything from easy lay-ups, free throws, and even a technical foul opportunity (Sugar Rodgers let her temper get the best of her).
Just as momentum was starting to swing their way, Epiphanny Prince nailed a heartbreaking 3-pointer to make it a 1-point game. After a much-needed substitution, Sydney Carter hit a clutch jumper to take the Dream’s lead up to 4 points.
Luckily our girls avoided disaster and came out with the win in front of a roaring crowd at Philips Arena. I hope this momentum lifts the girls against their next opponent the Phoenix Mercury. We’re still halfway through the season so they have time to get things together before playoff time.