The message is simple. “Forget about the Connecticut Sun. That’s done. (You) have to move on,” said Atlanta Dream head coach Tanisha Wright. “Re-focus because the next important game is today. Go out and execute the game plan.”
The Dream look renewed early with back-to-back shots from beyond the arc from All-Star Allisha Gray and forward Nia Coffey. The Mercury immediately respond with a bucket from their All-Star Brittney Griner. The Dream decide to get the energy going and unleash an early onslaught, going up 10-2 at 7:24. They also force an four turnovers early, which is a welcomed sight. However, the period was brutally ugly from there. The Dream shot 33% from the field and only made six baskets. With some help from guard Aari McDonald, the Dream lead 20-16 after one quarter of play.
The Mercury have no answer for the Dream except a mighty strong one: Griner. She uses her height to punish the Dream, wracking up bucket after bucket over All-Star Cheyenne Parker and Monique Billings. The Dream go to their bench for a spark and get it with a huge three-point shot from Asia (AD) Durr, a ferocious block from rookie Haley Jones, and filthy assistant from newcomer Iliana Rupert to McDonald. The team continues chipping away with more Rhyne Howard, Parker, and Coffey baskets. Despite an ugly first quarter, the Dream pick it up with 64% shooting and multiple assists that move the offense from veteran guard Danielle Robinson, who moved into tenth place in the WNBA’S all-time assists record books, surpassing Coach Wright. They lead 45-33 after two quarters.
The third quarter is the part in the story where the opposing team usually fights back but this is all about the Dream. They manufacture some magnificent ball movement to cut through the sticky Mercury defense. The offense is oozing with shots from Coffey, Gray, and Howard. They force a timeout at the 6:30 mark. Yet, the buckets don’t stop. McDonald, Billings, and Durr all jump in with offense, slowing down Griner, who was once a massive force, but is now crawling. The Dream lead 64-46.
By the arrival of the fourth quarter, Wright had gone to the bench giving quality minutes to rookie Laeticia Amihere, Jones, Durr, and Rupert. They add more to the Dream’s lead, firmly grabbing control. Despite not having her usual production, Howard still did Howard things. Howard, who made two three-pointers tonight, is the fastest player in WNBA history to make 150 three-pointers. It only took her 57 games.
The Dream wrapped this one up, 79-65, behind 42 points from the bench.
After the game, one of the Dream’s leading scorers, Durr, (who was tied with Gray with 12 points), was happy to add her contribution, saying, “It felt good. I’m just trying to get better on both sides of the floor, not just with scoring, but defense too.” McDonald, who was right behind Durr with 11 points, added more thoughts about the boost she gave the team. “I’m always trying to be consistent in that area when my number is called. I’m always making sure I’m ready and executing my role within the team.” McDonald had a combined 25 points in her two games since returning from injury.
Wright described the victory as a good bounce-back win, but stressed the need to replicate their effort moving forward. Wright mentioned despite the production of the bench, when the team is up big, they have to show they are ready for the next game.
The Dream travel to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn Thursday to play the New York Liberty before returning home Sunday, July 30, to play the Washington Mystics.