Sunday, July 15 was an incredible day all across the board. There was a final celebration of imagination with Atlanta Comic Con, all the drama that came with the World Cup Final, Atlanta United’s intense matchup with the Seattle Sounders in front of a record 72,243 fans, and the Dream breaking down what looked like an invincible Washington Mystics squad.
Although the Dream won by three points, the final score doesn’t at all reflect the battle that took place at McCamish Pavilion. The top two teams battled it out for Eastern Conference supremacy and it was a game for the ages.
The first sign of intensity was the commotion that was made after Jessica Breland made a monster block on Elena Delle Donne. Then I saw Monique Billings get fouled after making a baby skyhook around the free throw line. But it was after I saw Tiffany Hayes hit a shimmy after getting the ‘and 1′ that I knew the Dream had a rhythm going that wouldn’t be stopped.
The path to victory wouldn’t be an easy one. In the first quarter, the Dream were outscored 26-15 but were able to turn things around in a pivotal second quarter push where they outdid the Mystics by 12 points.
Though the Dream were not swayed by the big name of “Delle Donne” she still managed a double-double, racking up 23 points and 11 rebounds. She had big-time help from LaToya Sanders (16 points, 8 rebounds, two assists) and Monique Currie (12 points, 8 rebounds, one assist).
What I’m loving about this year’s Atlanta Dream squad is that they’re not totally reliant on Angel McCoughtry. They have a healthy balance of height, depth on the bench, speed, and youth. Whereas in the past, most of the offense ran through Angel, now they can default to the veteran expertise of Tiffany Hayes or the consistency of Renee Montgomery. Monique Billings is coming into her own and Brittney Sykes is making a name for herself as well.
Like their Friday match against the Fever, the Dream used the entirety of their roster which again, resulted in a victory. Now, why is that important? Because when you juxtapose the two, Elena Delle Donne played 36 minutes while Elizabeth Williams played 30. Four Mystics players played 30 minutes or more while Williams’ 30 minutes was the only such minutes played by a Dream player. This resulted in a more evenly distributed point contribution and gives the players time to rest. The confidence Coach Collen has in her players is tremendous. As opposed to running her starters rampant against the top team in the East, she trusts her bench to contribute their fair share.
Jessica Breland has been a constant threat on the court and continuously shows why she’s a starter and an important part of this Dream squad. She worked hard for her double-double, scoring 11 points, grabbing 10 rebounds, and two blocks on the night. Sykes led the ladies with 17 points while Hayes grabbed 13 herself. But what’s most impressive about both players is that they both shot 100% from the FT line.
The Dream travel to face the Connecticut Sun tomorrow (Tuesday) at 7:00 p.m. and return home Thursday, July 19 to host the New York Liberty. Let’s see if they can increase their win streak to six.
Photo: Hakim Wright