The Atlanta Dream hosted the Phoenix Mercury today at the McCamish Pavilion. The Dream (8-9) will look to quickly rebound from a 95-86 loss to Seattle Friday evening. Coming into the game, the story to watch was how Atlanta’s Elizabeth Williams and Imani McGee-Stafford would matchup against Phoenix’s Brittney Griner.
The starters for the dream: Tiffany Hayes, Renee Montgomery, Angel McCoughtry, Jessica Breland, Elizabeth Williams.
The Dream were off to a fantastic start against the Mercury, who were tied for first place in the Western Conference. But with a record of (14-5) the Mercury were nothing to sleep on. Leading 27-17 at the end of the first quarter, Phoenix’s Diana Taurasi helped close the gap and sway the momentum in their favor as the first half drew to a close. Before the half closed we’d see a monster block by Atlanta’s Elizabeth Williams and a technical foul on Brittney Griner. The Dream were clearly rattling the best from the West and took their 11 point lead into halftime.
Jessica Breland (12) and Imani McGee-Stafford (8) led the Dream in rebounds while Tiffany Hayes (17) and Brittney Sykes (13) led in the points department.
The Mercury made a late push in the final minutes of the game, closing the deficit to five points. This is a good example of good teams pulling together. The Dream led the entire game and held the lead above 10 points throughout the game until around the sixth minute of the fourth quarter. “I think we found our flow offensively from the beginning, even though we weren’t hitting shots we were finding shots,” said Elizabeth Williams. “So for us to do that and keep our defense as what is, I think that’s what helped us win.”
The final minute was the most physical and emotionally charged of the game. Bodies were flying. Angel McCoughtry was knocked to the floor so hard her head bounced off the court and no foul was called. Tiffany Hayes body checked a Mercury player out of bounds and still, no foul was called. In the end, the Mercury were forced to foul to keep the Dream on the line but by that time, there was no comeback in sight.
One of the biggest differences of the match the containment of Brittney Griner. “I think you’re in much better position when you can make her force those shots. We played double on her most of the night,” said Dream coach Nicki Collen. She also commented on using 11 players tonight. “I trusted matchups today. I love what Imani has brought the last 3 or 4 games. I trust that Mo (Monique Billings) is gonna play hard. I trust that Blake Dietrick is never gonna make a scouting report mistake and she’s gonna run her rear off every possession.”
The final score was 76-70, bringing the Dream’s record up to (9-9) for an even .500 winning percentage.
Photo: Hakim Wright