The best part about ending the season so strong was earning a No. 2 ranking in the new WNBA Playoff format. The Atlanta Dream ended the regular season on a high with coach Nicki Collen winning Coach of the Year honors, Tiffany Hayes winning All-WNBA 1st Team honors, and the gift of a two-round bye (courtesy of their No. 2 ranking).
Unfortunately, the regular season and the playoffs are two different things. Atlanta dominated the series 2-1 with Washington during the regular season, almost to the point of bullying them on the court. Tonight’s plan to repeat this was thwarted almost immediately when the Mystics opened up with an onslaught of jumpers.
This ferocity threw the Dream off their game at the start and the Mystics took the lead without looking back. The intensity and physicality lived up to the Eastern Conference rivalry everyone was hoping for.
Elena Delle Donne did what was expected of her and lead the Mystics with 32 points, 13 rebounds, and shot an astonishing 10 for 10 from the free throw line. Actually, the entire Mystics squad shot 100% from the line. Meaning the Washington Mystics shot a mind-boggling 20 for 20.
The duo that gave the Dream the most problems were that of Kristi Toliver and Natasha Cloud. With eight and 13 points respectively, they played a strong supporting pair to add to Delle Donne’s dominance on offense.
Although she had an extremely slow start, Tiffany Hayes (17 points) returned to form in the 4th quarter to help the Dream close the deficit to three points. Elizabeth Williams led the Dream most of the day with 15 points and amassed 14 rebounds. With double-doubles from both Delle Donne and Williams, you can see a battle brewing between the two down low.
The Dream’s playoff journey started today with a 87-84 loss to the Mystics. Their quest to “Defend the ATL” continues Tuesday at 8 p.m. in Game 2 of the WNBA Semifinals.
Photo: Hakim Wright