June 5, 2021 

Film room: Minnesota 86, Atlanta 84

A game of exploiting the other team’s over-help and ball-watching

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The Lynx bested the Dream 86-84 on Friday night, winning a close affair to start their first winning streak of the season. Napheesa Collier had her best game this season with 26 points on 73.4% true shooting and Layshia Clarendon put up 14 points in their first start in Minnesota (2-4, 0-3 in the Commissioner’s Cup), while Tiffany Hayes had 23 points and Aari McDonald set a career high with 15 points and 4-9 3-point shooting for Atlanta (4-3, 3-2 Commissioner’s Cup). The Lynx jumped out to an early lead, but the Dream took the lead early in the second quarter and held it most of the way until the fourth quarter.

Let’s look at some film from last night’s game.

1Q, 9:34; ATL 0, MIN 2 — Sylvia Fowles is in year 14 and still hedging and recovering smoothly enough to stuff the heck out of this. Incredible.

1Q, 8:23; ATL 3, MIN 2 — I get that Clarendon isn’t quite Arike Ogunbowale when it comes to blow-bys, but if Courtney Williams is this flat-footed, every point guard is getting an easy two.

1Q, 8:03; ATL 3, MIN 4 — Kayla McBride is probably not getting paid $190,000 to a) run into her teammate on a simple weave handoff and b) help off of Williams, a 70.4% eFG shooter on spot-ups (per Synergy).

1Q, 7:52; ATL 5, MIN 4 — This is the cost of having Clarendon start over Dangerfield. They’ve got that ~veteran savvy~, but when they get stuck here, they don’t make the adjustment to dump it to Fowles that Dangerfield would.

1Q, 7:01; ATL 5, MIN 6 — Dream run a handoff into a double screen for Williams here. Collier goes under, which sinks Fowles into the paint. Damiris Dantas has her eyes on the ball, so only McBride sees the double screen coming. But McBride goes through the middle for some reason instead of going under and funneling Williams towards Fowles, leaving Williams open on the spot-up.

1Q, 6:38; ATL 5, MIN 8 — Pistol action from Atlanta. This is where Chennedy Carter’s absence hurts the Dream: Williams is not a point guard, but you need a pull-up threat for pistol. Good job by Clarendon to poke it away on the trail; good awareness from her.

1Q, 5:35; ATL 5, MIN 13 — Iverson screen for Hayes. Collier doesn’t give her the baseline but completely falls for the fake. Fowles doesn’t do much to contest, and Hayes has an athletic bucket.

1Q, 3:58; ATL 11, MIN 15 — This seems like suboptimal transition defense.

1Q, 3:10; ATL 11, MIN 18 — McDonald is going to demand better defense than this.

1Q, 2:56; ATL 14, MIN 18 — Or maybe McDonald is a little too cocky.

1Q, 2:21; ATL 14, MIN 21 — Layshia’s been getting lost in help defense, and McBride’s not navigating screens well.
1Q, 2:00; ATL 16, MIN 21 — McDonald is apparently going to demand better defense than this, too.

1Q, 0:19; ATL 21, MIN 21 — 1-3-1 matchup zone with a corner trap from the Dream here, with the Lynx in a perimeter-oriented lineup. Minnesota does a good job of working around that, and Elizabeth Williams doesn’t recover. A great pass from Jessica Shepard for the layup.

2Q, 8:55; ATL 25, MIN 25 — This is, uh, not how you’re supposed to defend a pick-and-roll.

2Q, 7:12; ATL 28, MIN 27 — Gotta love the ambition from Crystal Bradford.

2Q, 6:46; ATL 28, MIN 27 — Shepard should be hedging to Odyssey Sims and recovering to Cheyenne Parker — Clarendon clearly is trying to get back to Sims, but Shepard has no interest in the “recover” part. So Sims gives her the crossover, pull-up middy for two.

2Q, 4:41; ATL 30, MIN 31 — McBride, navigating screens, etc.

3Q, 7:51; ATL 46, MIN 44 — Off-ball stagger screens for Hayes, and Collier takes a page out of the McBride Screen Navigation playbook.

3Q, 7:22; ATL 49, MIN 44 — Basically the same play that the Dream just ran for Hayes, but the second screen is a handoff instead. Dangerfield, guarding Sims, gets caught ball-watching — I think the screen problems are endemic.

3Q, 5:47; ATL 52, MIN 45 — Dream try the off-ball staggers for a third time, this one for Hayes again, but Bridget Carleton defends it well. Smart screen by Elizabeth Williams on Carleton when she helps to give Hayes an open three.

3Q, 4:56; ATL 54, MIN 45 — This has become a game of who can exploit the other team’s over-help and ball-watching the most.
3Q, 1:50; ATL 58, MIN 57 — Clarendon is a solid defender, but Bradford completely embarrasses him on this jab step. Smooth shot.

4Q, 7:50; ATL 70, MIN 65 — Collier with a good show and recover on this PnR, and Dangerfield fights around and recovers really well, but she’s simply too small to affect Sims’ floater — Sims just misses this of her own accord.

4Q, 6:26; ATL 70, MIN 69 — Second time this half that Minnesota has done a BOB give-and-go with Fowles and the inbounder, and Courtney Williams has left the inbounder to double-team both times, for two open layups.

4Q, 4:27; ATL 76, MIN 74 — Dangerfield caps off a personal 10-6 run against Atlanta. Looks like the Dream were running a matchup zone on the SLOB, which would mean Courtney Williams mistakenly played man. (If it was just man defense, then McDonald and Tianna Hawkins were on different pages about switching.)

4Q, 0:53; ATL 80, MIN 83 — I have no idea what Atlanta is trying to do here. Dangerfield does a good job of helping on the basket cut, Fowles and McBride stand up a Hawkins baseline cut, and McBride follows Courtney Williams out well. But Elizabeth Williams is just sort of hanging out there, and Hawkins’ cut is in heavy traffic, and there’s no outlet. It’s a mess.

4Q, 0:24; ATL 82, MIN 84 — Rough couple of possessions for Dangerfield: first she throws a bad-pass turnover, then gets caught in a trap for the jump ball.

Written by Em Adler

Em Adler (she/they) covers the WNBA at large and college basketball for The Next, with a focus on player development and the game behind the game.

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