For a team that was finding its groove, the past few weeks have been rough for the Atlanta Dream. Sometimes close or tough games are needed to build character so the team can learn from it—could this be that? After winning four in a row and rising up everyone’s power rankings, the Dream dropped two straight to the Minnesota Lynx—who previously had only one win to start their 2021 season—followed by two loses to the Storm and a split series with the Mystics.
Cheyenne Parker made her Dream debut after clearing extensive Covid-related protocols, providing valuable experience in the post. However, as Parker returned, Atlanta was without the services of Chennedy Carter, who suffered a right elbow injury during the Dream’s May 29th game against the New York Liberty. The Dream will now also be without Tiffany Hayes for the next four-to-six weeks as she recovers from a leg injury. Hayes has been averaging a career-high 17.6 points (PPG), 3.3 assists (APG), and 1.6 steals per game (SPG).
Next Woman Up, Perhaps?
With Carter’s absence, rookie Aari McDonald has been able to capitalize on her increased minutes and has averaged 8.0 PPG off the bench. As she continues to adjust to the speed of the professional game, McDonald’s offense—but more importantly her defense— will keep her on the court.
Tianna Hawkins’ shots have been falling lately. Over the past two games, she’s averaging 13.5 PPG and 7.5 RPG. As a frontcourt player with the ability to step out and knock it down from deep, Hawkins thrives with increased spacing.
In the last six games, Odyssey Sims is averaging 10.5 PPG, 4.83 APG, 3.0 RPG, and 2.5 SPG. She provides additional veteran experience at the lead guard position, and her defense has been stellar for the Dream. With Hayes potentially out for the next few weeks leading up to the Olympic break, expect Sims to be relied on more for her offense.
It’s Just a Slight… Rough Patch.
To help put things into perspective, the Dream won just seven games last season. With a current record of 5-7, and two games this week, the Dream could potentially match 2020’s win total and move to .500 after just 14 games with nearly 20 games left to play.
You may have seen or even heard (via Clubhouse and Twitter Spaces) me chanting “DREAM 2021” on various social platforms in recent months. BUT…exactly what is it that I’m so excited about? To use a word that’s been tossed around by several on the roster, the Dream happen to be loaded with “DAWGS!” I could probably take the time to talk about what it means to be a “dawg” and how it applies to this team, but it’s one of those IYKYK situations.
With the mixture of veteran experience and youth, this is a team with promise and the pieces to make a playoff run AND contend. The Dream have yet to have its entire roster together and healthy, but obviously that’s no excuse, as several teams have had to deal with injuries and a revolving door of players.
On the quest to be the best, there will always be areas for improvement. When looking at averages so far this season, the Dream are Top Four in points and currently lead the league in steals per game. While they are fourth in free-throw attempts at 20.3 per game, they’re 12th in the league at conversion, only making 72.8 percent of those shots.
Leaving valuable points at the free throw line isn’t ideal and can often be a deciding factor in close games. We’ve already seen at least six games come down to buzzer beaters. With the competition stiffening and several rosters not at 100 percent, the margin for error becomes even slimmer across the league.
With a roster that’s made up of fierce personalities and talent—Tiffany Hayes (even while injured), Courtney Williams, Odyssey Sims, and more—there’s no doubt (at least from me) that this team will trend in the right direction.
Remember when I mentioned those dawgs? Well, dawgs compete. Dawgs adjust and do what’s necessary. Dawgs go the extra mile and will themselves and their team to wins. Character building moments are all well and fine, but ultimately… winning feels better.
This week, the Dream face the Minnesota Lynx and New York Liberty. Having dropped two games already to the Lynx, which started their four-game skid, they’ll look to reclaim a little bit of their time and grab a win. Courtney Williams saved the day to defeat the Liberty in their last meeting on the road in a thrilling game, so expect another fun matchup.
Tune in as tomorrow’s tip-off against the Lynx is scheduled for 7pm EST.