Before today’s game, Atlanta Dream head coach Tanisha Wright stressed a continued sense of accountability and consistency. She expressly mentioned caring for the basketball and playing hard and focused every time the team steps on the floor. The team is responding, but today’s ask against one of the WNBA’s best was insurmountable.
As the game started, nothing was going right for the Dream. Multiple turnovers and missed buckets had the Connecticut Sun out to a 9-0 lead with 7:55 remaining in the opening quarter. All-Star Cheyenne Parker finally got the Dream on the board with free throws. Atlanta got back in rhythm by finally getting some foul calls and a spark from guard Aari McDonald off the bench. The length of Connecticut forward DeWanna Bonner and guard Rebecca Allen gave Atlanta all it could handle. The arena was quiet as fans watched the Dream shoot a miserable seven percent and miss a staggering 12 shots during the first quarter. The Sun would end the quarter ahead 30-16.
It’s more of the same in the second quarter as the Dream miss more shots. Thursday’s game hero Natisha Hiedeman picks up right where she left off, knocking down threes that would have been good from Mohegan Sun Arena. The Dream finally get some offensive production with Parker through drives to the basket, but Bonner is the stuff of nightmares. She is smiling as she knocks down shot after shot. With just under four minutes to play in the half, the lead is 20. The team responds when Coach Wright talks to guard Allisha Gray during some crucial free throws. With effort by Parker, McDonald, and Gray, they trim the lead to seven. The Sun lead just 45-37 at halftime.
Here come the Dream in the third quarter: They forced several missed shots by the Sun and respond with some solid baskets by Gray and some mighty buckets by Parker, forcing a timeout at 7:29 when the leads drop to one. However, over the next few minutes, several bad sequences by Atlanta, including bad transition defense and picking up fouls (Gray was up to five at this point in the game), allowed the Sun right back in the game. Connecticut responded with more Hiedeman shots from beyond the arc and several buckets from Bonner. The Sun boosted their lead to 67-54 at the end of three quarters.
The Sun continued ticking away and not letting the Dream into their party. Bonner had 18 points, Hiedeman 15 points, and Alyssa Thomas had 13 points just past the midway point of the fourth quarter. With 5:26 remaining, the Dream tried furiously to find some defense and quick buckets, led by leading scorer All-Star guard Rhyne Howard, who was to 17 points as she broke former Dream star Renee Montgomery’s three-point franchise record. Eventually, Howard would lead all scorers with 22 points, but the Sun were just too much for the Dream as time ticks down. Connecticut would take this one, 86-78, handing the Dream a consecutive loss.
“Connecticut is a tough team. Right now, they have our number…we did a good job fighting back and getting it within one, (but) we didn’t finish it the way we need to finish it.”, said Wright post-game. “It is what it is. We have to chalk it up and move on because our next stretch is really tough.”
While Wright has high expectations for her team, she acknowledges that this is the first time the team has been healthy in quite some time. The team also needs more practice time to figure out how this version of the franchise flows with contributions from each player. As Gray said on June 23, the team is “adapting,” which seems fitting for the last two games.
The Atlanta Dream play at home again on Tuesday, July 25 against Brittney Griner and the Phoenix Mercury.