August 9, 2020
Dream come out flat in loss to Dallas
Atlanta trailed after the first quarter and never led by more than seven points.
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Monique Billings #25 and Betnijah Laney #44 of theAtlanta Dream plays defense against the Seattle Storm on August 6, 2020 at FeldEntertainment Center in Palmetto, Florida. (Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE viaGetty Images)
Less than 48 hours after a frantic, one-point loss to Seattle, the Atlanta Dream were back on the court.
They’re now six games into a stretch of 10 games in 17 days, and Dream coach Nicki Collen is mostly figuring out her plans as they go along. Every coach in the WNBA is dealing with a similar schedule this year, with varying stretches of playing every other day, and none of them have really dealt with this before.
It’s a learning experience, and that’s exactly what Collen realized after Atlanta lost 85-75 to the Wings on Saturday afternoon.
After the close loss to the Storm, Collen gave her team Friday completely off to recover. But with a noon tip-off on Saturday, the Dream didn’t look ready to go when the game started.
“I thought we came out flat,” Collen said. “I don’t think we came out with a ton of energy. That might be my fault. We probably can’t take days off. That’s the tough part about this. You try to do your best to load manage. We did full recovery, thinking this was a quick turnaround and a noon tip. We probably should’ve been in the gym. We’re too new. We’re too young. That’s on me.”
It sounds somewhat counterintuitive but taking a day fully off can actually lead to a team coming out flat the next game. They may not be fully in game mode and prepared to play after having a day to relax, and that appears to be what happened to Atlanta on Saturday.
The Dream led by one at the half, largely because they’d managed to shut down Arike Ogunbowale in the first half. She still had ten points, but she was only 3-of-8 from the field and didn’t look as threatening as normal.
Then, as she does, Ogunbowale came alive in the second half and dropped another 14 points to help Dallas pull away. She had 9 of her 24 total points in the fourth quarter to put the game on ice.
Coming into the game, the matchup between Ogunbowale and Chennedy Carter was hotly anticipated. But Carter, coming off a 35-point, seven assist game on Thursday, wasn’t herself. She still ended up with 14 points, but went just 5-of-14.
Dallas defended her mostly with size and sent Kayla Thornton to do most of the work, which played a role in Carter’s difficulties. She looked frustrated at times throughout the game and just didn’t seem like the same player Atlanta has had so far this year.
“It’s hard to be a rookie point guard in the WNBA,” Collen said. “They did what I actually thought they would do. They put size on her, they put Kayla Thornton on her. They switched some on her and the size bothered her when she got in the lane. I thought she got hit. I think she should’ve gone to the foul line a little bit more. That’s what she was frustrated by, but that’s part of the WNBA.
“She went to the line ten times in the last game and only got there three times [today]. She had the and-one and the one time late. That was her frustration. But I just told her, you can’t let that frustration give the other team a point. I think that’s a growth. That’s a growth opportunity for her to see that you can get frustrated but make your two free throws and get a stop at the other end. She’s gonna learn.”
After the game, Carter tweeted that her grandfather passed away Friday night, which no doubt played a role in her performance.
At this point in the season, Atlanta is clearly struggling to put the pieces together, but it’s hard to say what’s due to the team having 10 new players and what’s due to the difficulties of the schedule so far. There are flashes of excellent play, which is undoubtedly encouraging for Collen and the team.
Collen and her players are visibly frustrated with how things are going, but there’s an undercurrent of hope in their comments. They know the pieces are there to be successful, but with limited practice time due to the grind of the schedule, it looks like it’ll take more time for things to fully come together.
“It’s tough having quick turnarounds and still trying to build that team chemistry and also trying to get back to my game,” Courtney Williams said. “It’s hard right now, but we’ve gotta figure it out. We don’t really have a choice.”