Good things take time. Even in the midst of a four-game losing streak, the Atlanta Dream can still point some bright moments. They’ll be looking to change course following the slow start. Luckily, the Dream have plenty of time to think about improvements heading into a week with six days between games.
Atlanta’s bench has delivered strong performances so far this season. Brittney Sykes leads the team in scoring with 12 points per game. Factoring in Monique Billings and Alex Bentley, the Dream get a solid and competitive effort each night from the bench. Bentley averages 6.8 ppg and 2.4 assists per game and Billings contributes 5 ppg, 5.5 rebounds per game, and shoots 47.1% from the field.
Yet the box score fails to capture how disruptive Billings has played defensively. Paired with Marie Gülich, they’re able to provide an upbeat and athletic defensive presence. In the post, the duo alters the shots of incoming guards and competes with often-times more experienced post players. The two helped hold Connecticut’s Jonquel Jones and Alyssa Thomas to a combined 8-22 from the field.
It’s hard to imagine that any team would be satisfied with a losing streak and Atlanta is no exception. But they are looking to grow from the struggle. In postgame comments after Sunday’s 65-59 loss to Connecticut, Sykes shared, “It’s only up from here. We had that talk in the locker room after the Vegas loss, and the best thing you can do is learn from it and not make the same mistakes.”
“Yeah, we started slow. But ultimately when the subs came in and we picked it up and [then]starters got back in. We picked up the energy and we didn’t get down on ourselves,” said Sykes on what the bench brought to the game.
It’s no secret that Atlanta’s currently not at full strength. The Dream’s franchise player, Angel McCoughtry, is still recovering from a torn ACL suffered in August 2018. The injury many may not know about is Tiffany Hayes’s lingering ankle problems.
“I don’t think people realize that she tweaked her ankle before our opener, and has been in a boot the last two weeks. We’ve rested her in practice,” said Coach Nikki Collen. Not to make excuses, she also acknowledged that the lack of practice due to the injury has potentially affected Hayes’ play and her rhythm.
While shooting has dipped to 36.6% from the field and 23.2% from deep, free throws are trending upward at 72.3%. The shooting needs to get better, obviously. But free throws are crucial in tight games so any improvement there is welcomed.
Right now, Atlanta is a team that has placed emphasis on its defense and looks to put the pieces together to fine tune its offense. The Dream’s lone win of the season came against the Dallas Wings. Fortunately, their only matchup of the week is against the Sky as they play on Saturday, June 15th. Will they secure the win to move to 2-4 and perhaps start a different kind of streak or will the Dream continue to struggle in 2019?