The Dallas Wings returned back home to the College Park Center last week and played two games out of a three game homestand. Dallas couldn’t capture a win on Thursday as they lost 76-72 to the Indiana Fever. But Saturday was a different story. They notched their first win of the season over the Atlanta Dream, who defeated them in the season opener. Now it’s time for the Wings to keep it going.
Momentum in today’s league is difficult to maintain. It could be altered by a timeout during a game or switching from a home game one day, to a road game the next. Many factors can play into a negative shift in momentum, but with the right guidance, teams can sustain it. All year, we’ve talked about how this team competes and that they aren’t looking to tank in any way.
Basketball is a game of runs. When it comes down to large shifts in momentum during a game, those largely come from the runs that teams go on within the game. If your team goes on a scoring run they just made and it forces the opposing team to call timeout, then your team has control in that moment. It is up to your team as a whole, coaching staff included, to maintain that momentum. Teams during the timeout will attempt to make adjustments to stop your run and the team has to be thinking, “how do we stop them from slowing us down?” Go into the minds of the other coaches briefly and figure out how YOU would stop your team and shift momentum.
If you don’t know the answer, then keep doing what you’re doing and hope they can’t figure it out either. If you do think you know, prepare yourselves and the team for what adjustments they could possibly make and act accordingly. Be two steps ahead of your opponent at all times. If you can do that, being the road team or the home team will cease to matter because your team will have the upper hand because of their resilience and attention to detail.
“I was really proud of our team trust me,” said head coach Brian Agler on his young players leading the game. “I’ve been really challenging them hard here ever since the beginning of training camp. We had our opportunities and have come short a couple of times. But they’ve hung in there and they’ve been resilient. We had many players step up tonight.”
“Arike [Ogunbowale] had a big night, she’s starting to feel herself a bit. Kaela Davis coming in and playing the point first helped us not only offensively but also defensively. When she’s out there, she’s big and long and she can really cause problems for opposing guards,” continued Agler. “Allisha Gray, that play she made right before the half, I thought was key because it cut their lead down. I’m sure I’m missing people but we got contributions from everyone tonight and it was really important.”
At times this season, the Wings looked as if they lack confidence offensively on the court even though each of these players has confidence in their games. No one likes to lose and when you’re the only team in the league without a win, it can take a toll mentally. That didn’t last long with this team, though. After a couple of bad games in their third and four outings, they decided enough was enough and it was time to pick themselves up and bring in a win.
Dallas fought extremely hard on this past Thursday against the Fever. Kayla Thornton showed out with a career-high 19 points, but unfortunately it wasn’t enough. On Saturday though, they broke ground. Not only did they win, they won by double digits. For me, a team that goes from winless to a double digit win in their first victory shows that its win is not a fluke.
Arike Ogunbowale led the Wings with 17 points and Allisha Gray added 16 points and 8 rebounds in the victory. Some can argue that the win is not that impressive because it was against the struggling Dream who had just lost five straight games. Dallas fixed their little mistakes and are beginning to find themselves on offense. Notice I didn’t say they found themselves, because they haven’t. But they are indeed on the right track.
The only downside for this Dallas team is that they will be without another reliable vet for a little while. Glory Johnson will be overseas for a few weeks as she will play for Montenegro in EuroBasket 2019. Luckily she isn’t the only WNBA player departing so the Wings won’t be the only team with this disadvantage. The team brought Megan Gustafson back for at least the length of time Glory will be away, maybe more.
Nonetheless it will be an adjustment for this team and the coaching staff. They will need to readjust the rotations to account for her absence. In addition to Johnson’s play, the team will miss her leadership on and off the court greatly. Although more adjustments will need to come. Moriah Jefferson will soon make her Wings debut within the next week and Skylar Diggins-Smith is likely nearing a return. The constant adjustments will really test this team and see what they are made of. The team will either make or break themselves in the midst of it all.
One thing that very much remains constant with this team is that Coach Agler rides with the unit that is hot. It doesn’t matter what players he has on his bench or on the court. Whoever is playing well gets to play. This will likely remain true even when Skylar returns. It’s a smart thing to do by Agler and not all coaches adopt this method of staying with the hot hand. Some coaches stick strictly to their game plan and do not stray away from it no matter the situation.
Agler’s method allows players to sustain confidence instead of sitting down after a good run or big plays. It also gives bench players late game experience in case they are ever in those situations again. The confidence he has in his players in critical moments is astounding. It will enhance the team to the level where you won’t have to question if any specific player should be on-court during the final minutes of a game or not because you know he prepared them for that moment.
The Wings have a tough test against Phoenix this week as they are hungry for a win after dropping their last two games. DeWanna Bonner and Britney Griner account for 41.5ppg as a duo, out of the 74.5ppg Phoenix scores as a team. The Mercury(10th) currently sit one spot ahead of Dallas(11th) in the standings, but could switch places if the Wings can make bring in a second consecutive win. Dallas will host Phoenix on Thursday for Pride Night in the College Park Center with tip-off set for 7 p.m. and televised on CBS Sports Network.