August 11, 2023 

Notebook: Atlanta’s offensive woes continue in late collapse at Seattle

Dream are still in contention to host the WNBA Playoffs with one month to go

The Atlanta Dream are fighting to host a playoff series for the first time since 2018 with less than a month remaining in the season. If the season ended today, Atlanta (15-14) would be No. 5 in the standings, losing a tie-breaker to the Dallas Wings.

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Let’s dive into the Dream’s offensive woes in a blown double-digit lead against the Storm, the victory that helped Atlanta surpass its win total from 2022, and more in this edition of the Atlanta Dream notebook.

Atlanta’s fourth-quarter collapse in Seattle

On Thursday, Atlanta’s three-game West Coast road trip started off stormy with a one-point loss in Seattle.

In the first half, the Atlanta Dream scored 34 points and shot 31.6% from the field, but managed to build a seven-point advantage ahead of the break. Then, Atlanta increased its lead to 13 points entering the fourth quarter with a solid defensive effort against Seattle superstar guard Jewell Loyd, holding her to six points on 2-of-7 shooting.

However, it wasn’t too pretty for the Dream after that.

Atlanta rookie guard Haley Jones made a driving layup with 9:07 remaining in the fourth quarter to extend the Dream’s lead over the Storm to 15 points. After that, the Dream went scoreless over the next seven minutes and allowed Seattle to take a one-point lead with 2:19 remaining. 

In the last nine minutes, Atlanta scored five points on 15.3% shooting from the field (2-of-13), including five turnovers and eight personal fouls. Over that stretch, All-Star center Cheyenne Parker was held scoreless and did not attempt a field goal in the final six minutes.

“I would’ve liked to get [Parker] more touches on the block,” Atlanta Dream head coach Tanisha Wright told the media postgame. “I didn’t think we did a good job of making post-entry passes… we got caught on the sideline, missed a couple reads we should’ve had, but a lot of it had to do with my play-calling.”

With 28 seconds remaining, down one point, Loyd missed a contested pull-up mid-range jumper, giving Atlanta the ball with 21.2 seconds remaining after a timeout. Subsequently, Aari McDonald missed back-to-back free throws, allowing the Storm to call a timeout and take the lead with a bucket.

The Storm ran ‘Ghost Flare’ to pull Rhyne Howard away from the action, freeing up a 1-on-1 scoring opportunity for Loyd against Allisha Gray — which forced Atlanta’s Monique Billings to help over from the weakside and commit the foul on the 3-point play.

Down two points with seven seconds remaining, Atlanta ran a jumbled-up baseline stagger action, causing Howard to step out of bounds and clinch the Storm’s victory.

“I didn’t think I did a very good job in the last three minutes of the game, and calling the right sets for us,” Wright said. “We have to learn from this and be ready to bounce back [on Saturday].”

The Dream have dropped 6 of their last 10 games, with two losses coming against Seattle and Phoenix, the No. 10 and No. 11 teams in the WNBA standings, with a combined 17-41 record on the season.

Atlanta surpasses win total from 2022

On a positive note, Atlanta has already surpassed its 14-win total from 2022 — a month quicker.

“It shows that we’re continuing to get better; it shows that we have gotten better and we’re going to continue to grow [with] our young core group that we feel good about,” Wright said following the Dream’s home victory against the Fever on Aug. 6.

Wright was named WNBA Coach of the Month for July, becoming the second coach in franchise history to earn the recognition since the award was created in 2017. Atlanta finished with an 8-3 record in the month, including six-straight victories to open July.

“Coach [Wright] means a lot to us, with what she’s done to help change this [organization] around,” Atlanta second-year forward Naz Hillmon said. “We’ve been growing with her [and] I feel like that’s really special; we learn so much every single day.”

Fast facts

  • Atlanta’s pace of play (85.2 possessions per 40 minutes) in 2023 is the sixth-highest in WNBA history and the fastest offense since 2010, according to Her Hoop Stats.

Statistics via WNBA.com, unless otherwise noted.

Written by Hunter Cruse

Hunter Cruse covers the Atlanta Dream and the WNBA Draft for The Next.

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