May 24, 2023
Inside the largest comeback in Atlanta Dream history
'It's directional communication'
Last season, the Atlanta Dream were 0-4 in games in which reigning Rookie of the Year winner Rhyne Howard scored less than 10 points.
On Tuesday, the Dream won without a major scoring contribution from Howard (8 points), while overcoming a 19-point deficit, the largest in franchise history, in an 83-77 road victory over the Minnesota Lynx.
“We pride ourselves on defense, and we knew it wasn’t up to our standards in the first half,” second-year forward Naz Hillmon told the media following Tuesday’s win. “[We had to] figure out how to string together some stops, which made a difference in our transition offense, [an area] we feel like we’re really strong in.”
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In the first half, Atlanta allowed Minnesota to shoot 68.1% on 2-point attempts, where it struggled to contain the Lynx’s dribble penetration and provide necessary weakside help defense at the basket.
Following the second quarter, the Dream ramped up its defensive communication, and energy, causing the Lynx to convert on just 37.5% of its 2-point attempts in the second half.
The Dream’s defensive switch was led by experienced 6’3 post, Monique Billings, who finished with a game-high 12 plus-minus.
“Naz [Hillmon] just said it in our locker room, she knew exactly what she should be doing, where she should be because of [Mo Billings] communication,” head coach Tanisha Wright told The Next. “It’s directional communication, and it just spurns energy when you can do that, which’s exactly what Mo brought for us.”
Allisha Gray added a game-high 26 points, 10 rebounds, and two blocks on 8-of-17 shooting in 35 minutes of action. She also became the first Atlanta Dream player to record a 25-point, 10-rebound double-double since Courtney Williams in 2021, according to Across The Timeline’s historical data.
“I was just out there playing my game,” Gray told the media. “It feels nice to be with a team that believes in me, my scoring ability, and letting me be free.”
Aari McDonald was held scoreless for most of the game but hit the biggest shot of the night – an open catch-and-shoot wing three – to put Atlanta up three with under a minute remaining.
McDonald finished with six points, six assists, and three rebounds in 30 minutes of play.
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Through preseason and two regular season games, Atlanta has yet to piece together a complete four-quarter performance, but Tuesday’s second half was a start. Naz Hillmon looked like the play-finisher that earned second-team All-American honors at Michigan, and AD Durr was once again able to provide a scoring punch off the bench, finishing with seven points on a pair of tough jumpers.
The Dream (1-1) will return to action on Sunday for the home opener against Aliyah Boston and the Indiana Fever (0-2) inside Gateway Center at 3 PM ET.
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