The Atlanta Dream finished a three-game home stand with 2-1 record. Those games all came in “grind it out” fashion and each was decided by no more than seven points. After beating the Sun and Lynx respectively, they dropped an overtime thriller at home against the LA Sparks. Considering the caliber of their opponents, have the Dream found their recipe for success?
Dreaming of Defense
Speaking with Renee Montgomery after the win against the Lynx, she said, “It felt good. We’re starting to feel like ourselves. We knew this was the type of defensive team we are.”
Just how good defensively? The Dream held Minnesota to 35% from the field and 25% from deep. Montgomery added, “Going forward and today, we were so locked in our game plan and for coaches that’s like a heaven. Exactly everything they told us to do, we did. I’d just say being detailed oriented.”
Even more impressive, the Dream play strong, aggressive defense without committing unnecessary fouls. The Lynx attempted only five shots from the charity stripe while connecting on four. Atlanta also won the battle of the boards 44-39 and a 15-12 tally on the o-boards.
Bentley, Billings, and Hayes stepping up
“We’re excited and feeling better as a whole,” said Montgomery in regards to Alex Bentley’s return. Of course, the team misses Angel McCoughtry. But Bentley’s return helps make up for her absence by adding a scoring punch from the bench and another late game scorer. She average 11 ppg in the week’s three games. She also pulled down just under 4 rebounds a game and dish out a couple of assists.
Monique Billings currently leads the Dream in rebounding with an even 7 boards per game. She showed off her rebounding prowess against the Sparks with a new career high of 16 rebounds in the loss. She also played a career high in minutes played at just over 30 minutes.
Billings’ nine offensive rebounds provided for second chance points for the Dream and allowed them to convert on multiple attempts. She just has great awareness for the loose balls. On offense, Billings is not the biggest threat on the inside. But you can find her in the right spots at the right times. Defensively, Billings disrupts opponents by harassing drivers and forcing altered shots.
Tiffany Hayes finding her shot has propelled this recent success, as well. Averaging 16.3 ppg and 3.6 apg for the week, the 2018 All-WNBA first teamer has bounced back from a previously reported ankle injury that, in part, caused a slow start to her season. Despite averaging her lowest scoring average since the 2015 season with 13.3 ppg this year, Hayes finished the week with a 24-point performance against the Sparks including the shot to force overtime.
Building on fan intensity
Sunday’s nailbiter against the Sparks created the most intense crowd at State Farm Arena so far this season. The fans got engaged in the game and let the officials know when they didn’t agree with a call. Montgomery explained what the fans’ intensity meant to the team.
“Fans provide energy. Everybody knows that and everyone wants to play for the fans. I really appreciate the loyal people that came and sat through when we weren’t playing well because now we are. We welcome more fans, but I really do appreciate the people that kind of toughed it out with us.”
If the Dream are able to produce more wins, the atmosphere could very well resemble the crowd at Sparks game. This week the Dream hit the road for games against the Sky, Sun, and Mystics. Currently last place in the league’s standings, they are looking to start another streak and hit their stride before the All-Star break.