A few games ago I spoke on how I’ve seen the Dream show their versatility by not having to heavily rely on Angel McCoughtry (like in the past). I’ve seen a great transition where every play doesn’t have to go through her but she’ll show up when it’s necessary. Well, last night there was a need, and she showed up for her team with a team-high 19 points. Her best was when she followed up Tiffany Hayes and hit a turnaround jumper to cap a 13-2 run.
Tuesday night was definitely a battle. You might see the 10 point victory as one of ease for the Dream but it definitely was not. The difference was made in the fourth quarter when they outscored the LA Sparks 21-11. That 10 point difference would decide the match.
“Obviously, we didn’t hit shots,” said Candace Parker when commenting on their fourth quarter performance. “They were constantly playing in secondary and transition because we weren’t getting to set our defense because we weren’t scoring.”
While Parker rallied with 17 points and nine rebounds, the Sparks were definitely missing Nneka Ogwumike who missed her third straight game with an illness and Alana Beard did not play due to a groin injury. This was their fifth straight home loss.
Monique Billings and Brittney Sykes came up big time for Dream. Sykes had 13 points and four rebounds and was definitely a difference maker on the court. Billings, like Sykes, came off the bench and contributed eight points and six rebounds. But her biggest contribution was her support role for Jessica Breland. “She (Monique) brings energy and confidence and Jessica Breland was really sick, so I knew I had to limit her minutes” Coach Nicki Collen said after the game. “The one thing we know about Mo is that she’s going to bring a lot of energy. She’s going to rebound, run the floor, and I thought she did those things.”
The best post-game quote came from Sykes when she commented on setting the tone off the bench:
Every time we touch that floor, as a bench unit, we have like a little huddle before the games, and I talk to the bench, and I tell them ‘It’s the first ten minutes, and then it’s the first twenty minutes, and then it’s the next twenty.’ So, we just have to take care of those quarters whenever we get in. We kind of have a rotation going, so we know when it’s about that time when we’re about to go in. Assessing the situation on the floor, how’s the pace, how the team’s playing, is it slow, is it fast, all those things. So, once we realize that, when we get in the game, now we turn it up, we get that energy, and we just take it to heart that we’re going to be the better second unit. The other starters have to come out too, and when their second unit comes out, we have to dominate and give the starters a good cushion or give them a good place to go back in the game and keep it up. So, we’ve been doing that and it’s been helping a lot. Championship teams have a bench. We are trying to be that. We are trying to become that.”
To her point, Atlanta had 27 bench points on the night.
Atlanta (16-9) can go into this All-Star break confident as they’ve been on fire winning eight straight games. League action returns Tuesday, July 31, when the Dream host the Washington Mystics at McCamish Pavilion.
Photo: Hakim Wright