Last night’s game against the Chicago Sky was an amazing display of dominance and passing skill by Atlanta. Since Kris Willis over at Peachtree Hoops provided a game summary, I’ll move right on to the notes about last night’s game between Atlanta and Chicago.
* It was a record-setting margin of victory. The 38-point victory was the largest in franchise history. The previous record was 33 points in a 92-59 victory over Los Angeles on June 15, 2012.
* Atlanta led 56-31 at the half. The 25-point halftime lead is tied for the second-biggest halftime advantage in Dream history. The last time the Dream led by at least 25 points at the half was at…Chicago on August 14, 2010 when Atlanta held a 57-32 edge.
* Atlanta’s 51 rebounds ties a franchise record. Atlanta has had 51 rebounds in a game two times previously, both times in 2010 against Phoenix and Connecticut.
* Atlanta’s 13 turnovers was a season low.
* Both Céline Dumerc and Nadia Colhado scored their first career WNBA points during the game.
* Elena Delle Donne scored a season low and tied her career low with 7 points, making 3-of-10 field goals. She had just two points in the first half. Her previous low this season had been 16 points scored on May 26 vs. Minnesota. Oddly enough, Delle Donne’s previous game had been a career high of 33 points against the Sparks on Friday.
* Courtney Vandersloot of the Sky led all players with seven assists. This keeps Vandersloot on the top of the WNBA’s assist table with 8.13 APG.
We ended up speaking to coach Michael Cooper after the game. He comes out of the locker room quickly and he doesn’t take long. What follows below is pretty much the entire Michael Cooper press conference.
Atlanta Dream head coach Michael Cooper’s opening statement:
Our team is definitely getting better. Slowly but surely you can start to see that we are starting to understand each other on the floor; our chemistry is growing and we know we have to do it as a team. The way we rebounded tonight, 13 turnovers is about our limit at practice, and you have to beat yourself harder than other teams can beat you.
Cooper on Celine Dumerc and Shoni Schimmel as a combo:
It was kind of enjoyable because they can both handle the basketball, they are both point guards, so it is kind of fun. If they are both out there, I would like Celine to be more of the point because she is looking to pass a little more, but any given night you will see those combinations out there and it worked well tonight.
Cooper on the defensive strategy against Elena Delle Donne:
Just to go at her. Keep a fresh body on her. We know they played last night so we wanted to bang her around opposed to the last game where we let her play and if you can hold her down and keep her off the free throw line it’s tough for her to score. But she is a talented lady and we were fortunate enough to hold her to seven points.
Cooper on Chicago playing back to back and if it dictated the Dream’s strategy:
Not much. We are a running team anyway and we wanted to amp that up even more. We understand the dynamics of going back to back, we have done it the first four games of the season, so we knew it was going to be difficult for them, so we just wanted to push tempo and not rush into hurried shots and make them have to get back on defense and when our play wasn’t there, we started executing.
Cooper on the Dream’s dominance since the first quarter:
They are starting to understand each other. One of the things we changed in our offense was the first 10 seconds of the shot clock I’m letting them play. They go down and do what they want to, just don’t take quick shots and throw it away and play basketball, and they like that. Angel [McCoughtry] is doing a lot of great things, passing the basketball. So what we want to do is make them get back on defense and not let them control the tempo of the game.
Cooper on the high number of assists:
San Antonio (the NBA Spurs) is playing for a world championship because they move the ball around. If you just keep the ball on one side or in one player’s hand, well that works against you. So we want to move the basketball and look for the open shot. The thing we talk about around here is let the ball find the open shot, and we did that.
Cooper on the record-setting margin of victory:
It takes a lot of hard work and I think they are starting to understand that defense is going to create a lot of offensive opportunities for us and I liked our defense tonight and that is why we were able to get that lead. One point or 38 points, as long as we are winning the game that is all I am concerned about.
Cooper on the difference between this win against Chicago versus the previous loss:
I think they were a more aggressive team, I think they controlled the temp better at their home. They weren’t at their pace, and what we want to do is up their tempo. I thought we did it in spurts back there, but I think we did it better here.
Cooper on Matee Ajavon not appearing:
She’s injured right now. A calf injury.
“Was this a statement game?”
No, our think our statement game came last week against the Sparks. But this was a game to let everybody know – on the bottom of the board, I wrote that this was a game for first place, with Washington and Indiana behind us. This is the way we’re going to try to play, and we’re going to have to build on this play.
Cooper on Sancho Lyttle’s game:
It’s ironic how her game has gone up. The more responsibilities we have put on her – more defense, playing more physical in the paint - our play has gone up. A lot of the things we do, Sancho is a part of it.
(* * *)
Now onto Pokey Chatman, the Sky head coach. Chatman didn’t come out of the locker room and we suspected that if she came out, it would be very late. I gave up and at least one other reporter gave up. The following quotes from Chapman were provided by team PR personnel:
Chatman’s opening statement
We had a great opportunity to come in here and bounce back after a poor performance giving up 102 points last night at home. But we turned around and let a very good basketball team get momentum early, in the middle, and late in the game. It's just very frustrating to see.
Chatman on Delle Donne’s poor performance:
Part of having Elena Delle Donne is that other people get good shots. We play to her, we play through her, and we play off her. I told Elena you're a leader of this team, you can't be a liability defensively.
But the really good players can take that. They want that heat.
Chatman on the back-to-back issue:
Back to back is what we do. You prepare for that. We don't play for five days, we are going to get that rest then. So I'm not giving them that excuse.
Chatman on the Atlanta Dream:
There is a reason Atlanta is always in the finals; they are a quality basketball team. They play fast, get second chance points, and they rebound well. We just never got out of the gate.