August 27, 2023 

Why Atlanta has the WNBA’s worst record in August

Tanisha Wright: 'This team needs to grow up'

ATLANTA – On Aug. 1, the Atlanta Dream were 0.5 games ahead of the Dallas Wings for the No. 4 spot in the WNBA standings. Since then, the Dream has dropped seven of the last nine games, including three losses to the Las Vegas Aces by a combined 54 points.

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“This team needs to grow up,” head coach Tanisha Wright said audibly following Atlanta’s 83-78 loss to the Los Angeles Sparks on Friday. “It is [nearing] playoff basketball, if you watched any of the games yesterday, they were amazing – that’s how it’s going to be for the rest of the season – so this team needs to grow up.”

On Friday, the Dream’s blistering offensive start led to a 13-point advantage over the Sparks entering the break. At one point, it led by as many as 16 points, backed by a quick eight-point rampage from AD Durr.

Out of the break, Atlanta’s half-court offense went silent due to little off-ball movement, poor shot selection, and the lack of north-to-south attacks. In the third quarter, the Sparks, commanded by superstar forward Nneka Ogwumike, trimmed the Dream’s lead down to two points.

From there, little changed for Atlanta in the fourth quarter. The Dream was outscored by seven points in the final period, shooting 33.3% from the field and 0% from beyond the arc.

“In the second half, we didn’t do anything intentionally,” Wright said. “They went to Nneka, they went to Nneka, they went to Nneka, and Nneka came through for them [because] she’s an All-Star.”

On the Atlanta end, its All-Star tandem of Rhyne Howard and Cheyenne Parker combined for 12 points on 23 percent shooting (3 of 13) from the field in the second half.

“Our two All-Stars (Howard and Parker) didn’t rise to the occasion and they’ve got to be better,” Wright said with a stern look.

A major issue for Atlanta of late has been its lack of third-quarter production, resulting in multiple blown leads and inexcusable losses.

“100 percent, without a doubt,” Wright on if the third quarter struggles were due to shot selection issues. “It was terrible shot selection, [we were] walking through everything, and fussing with the referees; a lot of lack of toughness – physically and mentally.”

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Furthermore, through nine games in August, Atlanta ranks No. 12 in the league in third-quarter points (16.6), No. 12 in field-goal shooting (34.0%), and No. 12 in assists (3.6). 

Without All-Star guard Allisha Gray (ankle) for an undetermined amount of time and defensive ace Nia Coffey (hand) for the rest of the season, the Dream is searching for consistent production in the back half of its rotation. In the playoffs, every team has stars, but it’s the role players that can swing a series in either direction. 

As our WNBA analyst Em Adler wrote beautifully in the June 25 edition of the Sunday Notes,” The Dream’s halfcourt offensive process relies exactly on that same advantage of “we have more elite shot-makers than you do,” but that doesn’t work nearly as well without the fast break. And while it’s hard to say that a bottom-five WNBA offense can have a worse process than its numbers indicate, that is the case for Atlanta.”

“Ninety percent of the Dream’s entire halfcourt offensive philosophy boils down to a simple flowchart, which goes something like this: “Does this two-player action” — usually off the ball — “get us an advantageous shot? If yes, see below:”

Without the easy bail-out for aggressive self-created drives from Gray or efficiency spot-up 3s from Coffey, these half-court offensive issues are magnified.

Atlanta (16-18) has a magic number of three games to clinch a playoff birth, but it is also fighting to avoid a first-round matchup with the Aces or Liberty — whom it has a combined 1-7 record against this season.

The Dream will look to avoid a third-straight loss when it fares off against the Indiana Fever (10-24) on Sunday, Aug. 27 at Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

Written by Hunter Cruse

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

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