Atlanta Dream head coach Tanisha Wright was not pleased with the team’s effort against the New York Liberty on July 27th. “After (playing) New York, I had to go back and look at myself and evaluate the areas we need to be better in: turnovers, defensive focus and intensity, not allowing teams to have offensive rebounds on us, and continuing to get to the free throw line and making our free throws.”
It was back to basics for the Dream as they begin a battle against the banged-up Mystics. They are moving the ball very fluidly early with back-to-back threes from Rhyne Howard and Nia Coffey. They come right back on the other end of the floor with shots, led by Brittney Sykes. Coffey responds with some great passes to her teammates for easy buckets, recognizing several downhill open lanes. Washington keeps pace with the Dream as the team misses six shots from beyond the arc as the quarter progresses. Despite shooting a paltry 31%, the Mystics lead after one quarter, 22-20.
The Dream’s Haley Jones gets the second quarter started with a quick bucket to pull Atlanta even, but the Mystics answer from deep in three-point territory on the other end. Not wanting to be left out, sophomore Rhyne Howard hits a three-point shot of her own, making her the 14th-fastest in WNBA history to reach 1000 career points and the fastest in Dream franchise history. The Dream find a rhythm after Howard’s shots and do what they do best: shoot pretty buckets, led by a filthy spin move by Allisha Gray. Yet, Washington is playing some sticky defense, making the rest of the quarter challenging for the Dream. Behind 17 points from Sykes, they lead 41-40 into halftime.
The third quarter brings the emergence of Coffey. She explodes with 8 points, nearly willing the Dream to move down the floor herself. She’s doing it all, including showing off her ability to dish out assists. The Mystics do their best to respond, but with under five minutes remaining in the period, it’s the Dream’s world – we’re just living in it. In the next play, a massive Gray three pointer from downtown forces a Mystics timeout. Gray comes back and hits another three-pointer, but the Mystics are unfazed. They play bully ball the rest of the quarter to pull within three. They force a game-high sixteen turnovers, but the Dream lead 56-53.
The fourth quarter is an all-out battle as Coffey and Gray take on Sykes, who has 23 points, and Tianna Hawkins, who quietly has 14 points. Coffey is all over the floor with offense and some fantastic defense. However, the Mystics are doing everything possible to stop the Dream from completely blowing the game open. With 2:15 left to play, the Dream turn it up a notch with some quick buckets from Gray and Coffey. Coffey decides she’s seen enough and takes matters into her own hands. She has a game-saving block and a crucial rebound to slow down the Mystics. The Mystics attempt to foul their way back into the lead, but the Dream seal this game with timely free throws. They win 80-73, improving to 14-11 overall and tying last season’s win total.
The Dream travel to the desert Tuesday to take on the league-leading Las Vegas Aces at Michelob Ultra Arena at 10 PM.