San Antonio headed into Atlanta under a black-and-silver cloud.
With Becky Hammon (broken finger), Sophia Young (ACL) and Jayne Appel (concussion) out, two more players joined San Antonio’s walking wounded – Delisha Milton-Jones (tibial stress syndrome) and Shenise Johnson (sprained right knee). The Silver Stars would face an Atlanta Dream team missing only forward Sancho Lyttle, playing in the Euroleague finals. The result was what you’d expect, a 93-67 Atlanta triumph where the Dream were in the lead from the first basket.
“Yeah, we have a 10-1 record but we still have a lot more we need to work on, like our turnovers, our passes, a lot of things,” Atlanta forward Angel McCoughtry said. “We have a lot of potential to do a lot of great things. We just have to continue to take steps forwards and not backwards.”
The Dream remains undefeated in Philips Arena this season – their only loss this year has been a road loss against New York.
“We needed to come out in a faster pace than we did in the past few games,” Atlanta head coach Fred Williams said. (The Dream fell behind 10-0 against the Washington Mystics to start the previous game.) “We looked at a lot of game film on ourselves and some of our opponents and we just want to up-tempo our defense.”
The Dream scored its first eight points in the paint, and it looked like it might be smooth sailing for Atlanta which led 24-14 after the first ten minutes, shooting 10-for-14 (71.4 percent). Atlanta’s 10th win in 11 tries seemed assured.
With 6:41 to go in the second quarter, the Dream led by 33-16. However, Atlanta’s effective game on both sides of the ball was almost replaced by a lackadaisical approach – San Antonio’s 12-0 run wasn’t so much fueled by a Silver Stars resurgence than a studied apathy on the part of the Dream. Coach Williams was forced to call not one, but two timeouts to get Atlanta back into sync with San Antonio down by five, 33-28 after a 3-pointer by San Antonio rookie guard Davellyn White with 3:17 left in the first half. San Antonio would sink five three-pointers in the second quarter, including two by forward Shameka Christon and two by forward Danielle Adams. The Dream lost the quarter, but only by a point as Atlanta led 49-40 at halftime.
“San Antonio’s a good shooting team from the perimeter, and players like (Danielle) Adams shooting the three makes it difficult,” Williams said. “Myself, I had to find different combinations of a small lineup and big lineup at times.”
After halftime, it was business as usual for Atlanta. The Dream shot 75 percent (9-for-12) in the third quarter with Dream center Erika de Souza scoring eight third quarter points and point guard Jasmine Thomas adding seven. By the end of the third quarter, Atlanta led San Antonio 73-52, their biggest lead of the game. The rest was record-keeping, with the Silver Stars for the most part unable to budge Atlanta’s 20-point lead in the fourth.
Atlanta guard Tiffany Hayes led all scorers with 19 points. Six Dream players would score in double figures, including Angel McCoughtry with 15 points and nine assists. The Dream combined for 25 assists, beating the previous season high of 20.
San Antonio’s 93 points allowed was the most the Silver Stars have given up all season. Dressing only eight players, guard Jia Perkins led all Silver Stars players with 19 points. San Antonio point guard Danielle Robinson would have 10 points and nine assists, but also had six turnovers.
The Dream veterans know that they can’t afford to rest on their good start – the Dream go west for four road games against Western Conference opponents and don’t come back home until July 24 against Connecticut. “Going on the road is tough and this about to be a challenge for us this next month to see actually how tough we are,” Dream forward Le’coe Willingham said. “This is about to be our biggest test right now.”
* This is Atlanta’s 12th straight regular-season win at Philips Arena. Atlanta’s last home loss at Philips was an 103-88 loss against Indiana in last year’s Eastern Conference semifinals. The last regular-season home loss? An 84-80 loss to Tulsa on August 28, 2012 which was Fred Williams’s first game as Atlanta head coach.
* Atlanta is now 10-1 on the season, which is the only time that the Dream has ever won 10 games in 11 tries. From August 23-September 18, 2011, the Dream went 9-1 during the regular season.
* Atlanta rookie point guard Alex Bentley’s streak of 10 consecutive 3-pointers – a WNBA record – ended with a miss in the second quarter.
* Atlanta rookie guard/forward Anne Marie Armstrong scored her very first career basket late in the fourth quarter, a 3-pointer. It was the only shot she attempted in 3 minutes 58 seconds of play.
* Atlanta’s next three opponents: Minnesota, Seattle, Los Angeles and Tulsa, all out on the road. “Out on the west coast, they like to get up and down the court a little bit more, so our practices are going to be more transitional than half-court sets,” Williams said. “We just have to go out and stay focused. We’re got a few days off to regroup our bodies, get back at it and get out on the road against Minnesota.”
* Fred Williams on Sancho Lyttle’s return from Euroleague: “I don’t really know the exact date, but I know it’s going to be sometime this week. Hopefully, by Wednesday. For sure before the Minnesota game we play (Tuesday, July 9th).”
* With Sancho Lyttle’s return, Williams must decide who on the roster is going to go. Newly acquired center Ruth Riley? Or someone else, like Anne Marie Armstrong? Williams said he would decide a day or so before Lyttle gets back – and at least, by Friday or Saturday.
* San Antonio head coach Dan Hughes on Davellyn White this season: “She’s one of those players that we wanted to draft, but then you get her into camp, and now you know there’s something about this girl on a day-to-day basis that you like. She’s been just like you saw today. She’s learning a lot. She’s really coachable. She’s got great presence.”
* Hughes on Becky Hammon’s possible return in a couple of weeks: “We’re getting close.”