There's not much comfort for the Atlanta Dream to take in a loss at home, particularly a 92-86 loss to the visiting San Antonio Silver Stars which saw the Dream squander a 78-71 lead with 5:02 to go in the game. Even so, the Dream seemed to be closer to being on the right page than at any time previously in the season despite their seventh loss in nine games.
"I thought our effort was absolutely terrific tonight," Atlanta Dream head coach Marynell Meadors said. "We played more like Atlanta Dream basketball than we have since the beginning of the season. We played thirty-eight minutes. In the last two minutes you hope you have a chance to win the game and we just didn't win the game. I thought we played very well; I thought we played well enough to win the game. We just didn't win it."
"We did a good job of making enough stops and getting to the foul line," Silver Stars coach Dan Hughes said. "I thought that that was huge, that we could do that. And this team has done that several times, which you saw today. That's the first time we’ve won shooting thirty-nine percent. We just - offensively, we just were not very fluid in what we were trying to do today. I thought defensively we had timely stops. And you know, when you look at the situation - Adams gave us some timely offensive scoring. I thought [Danielle] Robinson came in, got here to the foul line and converted. I thought Becky Hammon and Sophia Young were points we could play to. And Jia Perkins was really the piece that set us apart."
The first quarter was a rough going for Atlanta, where the Dream started out with strong defense. The Dream picked up three steals in the first five minutes and gained a small lead, but guard Iziane Castro Marques had two personal fouls and four turnovers in the first quarter alone. Center Erika de Souza picked up her first technical foul of the year with the Silver Stars up by five points, and San Antonio held onto a 22-17 lead at the first quarter break.
With Atlanta's starters relatively unimpressive, Meadors put the ball in the hands of point guard Lindsey Harding and the Dream's supporting cast - guards Armintie Price and Coco Miller and posts Courtney Paris and Sandora Irvin. It seemed to make the difference at Atlanta shot 53 percent in the second quarter and held the Silver Stars to 7-for-22 shooting. San Antonio tried to take Atlanta out of its game with an 8-0 run to go up 38-29, but the Dream answered back with a 10-0 run of its own. Atlanta looked confident, Castro Marques recovered from her horrible first-quarter with four second-quarter points and the Dream led 41-40 at halftime. Atlanta had scored 18 of their 41 points off the fast break.
But in the third quarter, it looked like San Antonio forward/center Danielle Adams would do what she did to the Dream in their previous match-up in San Antonio - namely, shoot the lights out on them. Adams ran the floor and scored seven points in the first three minutes after the halftime break.
Even with Adams' mini-run, it still was a net positive for the Dream. "She played a great game tonight," Meadors said, "But she did not get as many points off us as she did at her last game."
Adams would have 10 third quarter points but Atlanta would claw back on a 7-0 run late in the third quarter which put Atlanta up 61-58. The bench contributed 12 of Atlanta's 20 third-quarter points.
Despite four inexplicable personal fouls from backup point guard Shalee Lehning in the fourth quarter, the Dream took a 78-71 lead with the first of two free throws from Coco Miller, who had 10 points in the fourth quarter alone. San Antonio answered with a 3-pointer from guard Jia Perkins - who finished with 25 points off the bench - and the Silver Stars tied the game on a bank shot by Adams and a follow-up free throw with 2:23 left in the game.
What happened to Atlanta? "We took quick shots," Meadors said. "We've got to work on time and score a lot more, and players that are veterans know that. We definitely just can't come down and shoot the ball, and that's exactly what we did, and [San Antonio] went down and scored."
The game remained tight, with Atlanta sending Lindsey Harding to the line with 39 seconds left and the Dream down 83-81. Unfortunately for Atlanta fans Harding missed both of her free throws, San Antonio got the rebound back and for the rest of the game Atlanta was forced to foul and hope that the Silver Stars would choke at the free throw line. But it wasn't to be. Atlanta would send San Antonio to the free throw line 21 times in the fourth quarter - and San Antonio made 20 out of 21 shots.
"When we had the lead we had a few poor decisions and did not stop the ball in critical moments," Coco Miller said. "And unfortunately, this means we came up short. We played hard the whole game, and we just need to build on that."
Coco Miller scored 19 points for the Dream to lead Atlanta, just four points off her career high. Forward Angel McCoughtry added 15 points and eight rebounds, and Lindsey Harding scored 13 points for the Dream. Armintie Price shot 3-for-6, for nine points and five assists for the Dream. Courtney Paris had seven points and 11 rebounds.
The bench played an important role for Atlanta, but an even bigger role for San Antonio - 58 out of 92 of San Antonio's points were scored by their reserves. Jia Perkins led all players with 25 points and eight rebounds. Four other players would score in double figures for the Silver Stars, among them Danielle Adams with 19 points on 6-for-10 shooting. Guard Becky Hammon had 17 points and six assists.
* The loss to San Antonio completed a season sweep of the Dream. Atlanta lost the previous match on the road 86-74 on June 11th, a game where San Antonio's Danielle Adams scored 32 points. The Dream led that game by ten points at one point. The last time Atlanta was swept by the Silver Stars was in 2008, and the Dream now have a 4-4 franchise record against San Antonio.
* Atlanta is 0-5 this season against the Western Conference. Two losses to San Antonio, two losses to Minnesota and a single loss to Phoenix. Atlanta will not play another Western Conference team until July 26th in Tulsa.
* Danielle Adams left the game late in the fourth quarter. She took an elbow above the eye, but should not miss any time.
* "We're 1-1 when we have everybody on the court," Meadors said, "the San Antonio loss and the New York win." Forward Sancho Lyttle has been away in Poland playing with 2011 Eurobasket for the Spanish National Team, but with today's 75-71 loss to Croatia Spain has failed to qualify for the Quarterfinals and is knocked out of Olympic qualification. Lyttle could theoretically be back with Atlanta with the Dream's next game on Thursday, but I wouldn't expect her back that soon.
* Alison Bales got her fourth start of the year. Could there be further lineup changes before the Thursday home game against New York, Atlanta's next home game? Meadors said, "We're thinking on the defensive end. Everything we're doing in practice is on the defensive end, 'cause we've just let people score too many points and the points that they've scored have been too easy."
* Coming into this game, Iziane Castro Marques was shooting 31-for-93 for the year - 33 percent. Castro Marques has struggled with injury and illness coming into the season. "I don't think she's 100 percent," Meadors said. "I don't think Sancho when she comes back will be 100 percent. Angel's not 100 percent yet. But, we're getting there, we're getting closer every single day. Hopefully, we can start turning some of these close games into wins."