July 2, 2023 

Inside Rhyne Howard’s historic 43-point performance

'They need to put some respect on my name'

ATLANTA – After making the All-Star Game in her rookie season last year, Atlanta Dream star and reigning Rookie of the Year winner Rhyne Howard was an omission from this year’s 22-player All-Star roster when the league announced the full list on Saturday.

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The following day, Howard had the best game of her career, becoming the youngest player to score over 40 points in WNBA history by dropping 43 points in a convincing 112-84 victory over the Los Angeles Sparks — and it was pretty clear that the all-star snub was quite the motivator for the effort.

“I know what Coach [Tanisha Wright] thinks of me, I know what my teammates think of me, and I know what I think of myself and the standards I have for myself,” Howard said after the game. “That’s what I did tonight and I showed it.”

In addition to the career-high 43-point effort, Howard finished with four assists, two steals, and two blocks on 14-of-20 shooting from the field and 6-of-12 from beyond the arc. She ended up one-point shy of Atlanta’s franchise record of 44 points, set by Betty Lennox in 2008.

“It felt great. I was already mad and then just coming into this game and everything was going in as I said at halftime. And it just kept flowing,” Howard told sideline reporter Autumn Johnson after the win. “There were some words said on the other end so it just kept me going…

“They need to put some respect on my name.”

This season, Howard has become a more dynamic on-ball creator from her rookie year. The 23-year-old has upped her 2-point attempt rate (+2.5%), unassisted 2-point rate (+13.4%), and free-throw rate (+3.7%).

“My mindset has really changed this year because I’m attacking more, I’m trying to get into the paint more and create easy looks for myself, rather than just floating around the 3-point line,” Howard said.

Additionally, the Dream announced a WNBA-leading sixth sell-out on Sunday, albeit, the smallest arena in the league, the energy is felt inside Gateway Center Arena – even by the players.

“Yeah, it’s unmatched,” second-year forward Naz Hillmon said about the home atmosphere. “I feel like you can’t go into any other area and get the same level of energy and excitement about women’s basketball. We feed off of it and it’s a difference-maker for sure.”

Atlanta led by six points after the half, shooting an efficient 54.3% from the field and 41.7% percent from three.

Atlanta starting forward Nia Coffey scored 10 points on 4-of-6 shooting in eight first-half minutes – her first time scoring 10 points in three-straight games since the 2021 season with the Sparks.

Atlanta Dream's Rhyne Howard (10, gray) drives to the basket in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, June 28, 2023.
Atlanta Dream’s Rhyne Howard (10, gray) shoots a layup from underneath to the basket in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, June 28, 2023. (Photo credit: Domenic Allegra | The Next)

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In the second half, Howard scored 18 of 56 points for the Dream en route to a new single-game franchise record for points scored (112) and improving its record to 7-8 on the season.

Moving forward, the frequent buzzword for Coach Wright and the Dream is consistency after back-to-back wins.

“Am I happy for the win, yes. We got two good wins in a row, but I’ll let up when we’re consistent with it, and two wins, again, isn’t consistency,” head coach Tanisha Wright on holding her team accountable. “I challenged them and I think they’re stepping up to the challenge, but I can’t let off. I have to continue to encourage them to rise to that standard.”

Next, the Dream will depart on a three-game road trip, beginning with a rematch against the Sparks on the West Coast on Wednesday at 8:00 p.m. ET.

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Written by Hunter Cruse

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

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