August 20, 2020
“I’ve got my mojo going”: Courtney Williams drops 30 in Dream loss to Mystics
Williams' 30 points is her season high and four points shy of her career high
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Courtney Williams #10 of the Atlanta Dream shoots the ball against the Washington Mystics on August 19, 2020 at Feld Entertainment Center in Palmetto, Florida. (Photo by Stephen Gosling/NBAE via Getty Images)
For as gifted offensively as Courtney Williams is, shooting from beyond the arc has never been a huge part of her game. She’s a pretty low-volume shooter from 3-point range and has never made more than 20 in a season.
So, Williams made her third three on Wednesday night, it meant more than just making a single shot.
It meant that Courtney Williams was back.
It hasn’t been an easy 2020 campaign for Williams. She tested positive for COVID-19 in Atlanta while going through individual workouts with the Dream before the team left for Florida. She didn’t join her team in Bradenton until a couple weeks into the season and missed both training camp and the first few games of the year.
Williams made her first appearance for Atlanta on July 31 and played 16 minutes off the bench while scoring six points on 2-of-10 shooting. She was getting shots up, but it was clear she wasn’t settled into the team and the system yet — and that it would take time for things to come together.
Atlanta played nine games in 17 days in Williams’ first weeks with the team. With a schedule like that, there was little to no practice time for Williams to learn her teammates or downtime to rest and recover to have fresh legs in the game. She had to play herself back into shape and learn on the fly. Some games went better than others, but the initial impression was that of a player who wanted to contribute but just wasn’t finding the same efficiency that she’s had in her career.
Then, after the Dream finally had two days off between games, Williams came out firing on Wednesday night. She played 37 minutes between the point guard and shooting guard spots and went 13-of-22 from the field — including 3-of-4 from beyond the arc. She grabbed rebounds (eight total), distributed the ball (seven assists) and only turned the ball over twice.
“I’ve got my mojo going now,” Williams said. “I was feeling good, getting to my spots, getting my teammates involved. I knew it was coming sooner than later. I’ve been on the struggle bus a little bit, but shooters shoot, so I knew it was coming.”
Her 30 total points was just barely edged by Betnijah Laney’s 35, and the duo joked after the game that they found success because they listened to Beyoncé during practice on Tuesday.
Regardless of the cause of the success, it was an important game for Williams — and for the Dream. Atlanta has struggled mightily without Chennedy Carter and her offensive gifts. With still another week before Carter might return, Williams returning to form is crucial if the Dream are going to snap their nine-game losing streak.
“It might be her best offensive game of her career,” Dream coach Nicki Collen said. “Throw out [just games she’s played for] Atlanta. 3-for-4 from the three-point line. She’s struggled from the arc a little bit. Hasn’t taken a high volume of them. You saw why Courtney was a player we coveted, traded for, and we’re really excited about. She had her bounce back.”
Added Laney: “She’s one of our go-tos, so we need her to hit those shots, to find her rhythm. She’s been doing a great job of getting her shots and everything. Tonight, she was feeling good and making them, so we just need her to keep that up to help us in our push moving forward.”
It’s emblematic of the kind of year Atlanta has had that Williams and Laney combining for 65 points and the team shooting 55.1 percent wasn’t enough to get the win. Team defense has been an issue and continues to be an issue. Washington scored 98 points Wednesday night. Even though the Dream put up 91, giving up 95+ points on a regular basis isn’t a recipe for success.
“It’s just defensive pride,” Collen said. “It’s that simple. If you’d have told me a year ago that we were going to shoot 55 percent in any one game, I would have told you we would never lose. Our team defense isn’t there. We talk about [it] both from a prevention and protection perspective, and we didn’t do a great job keeping them in front of us. Our protection wasn’t great after that.”
But if the Dream’s defense doesn’t tighten up, Atlanta will continue to need standout individual performances from scorers like Williams and Laney — and Carter once she returns. Now that Williams has had her breakout game of the season, all eyes will be on her to continue to produce.
And that’s a role that Courtney Williams is made for.
“I’m just getting comfortable,” Williams said. “Getting comfortable at the one spot. Getting comfortable with picking my spots on the floor. Seeing when to shoot, seeing when to pass. As the games keep progressing, I think I’ll keep getting better.”