Atlanta, GA — For the third time in just 12 days the Atlanta Dream got a crack at one of the best teams in the league, looking to secure the eighth and final playoff slot. Meanwhile, the Minnesota Lynx were looking to bounce back, coming off just their third loss of the season to the Indiana Fever (84-82).
Minnesota also was trying to control the tempo with the loss of its key player Lindsay Whalen, who is out indefinitely with a broken left hand.
These two teams are pretty familiar with each other after meeting so often, and the Dream was hoping that the third time would be their charm, but not all dreams come true.
Atlanta was not able to weather Sylvia Fowles with her 27 points and 13 boards as Minnesota outlasted Atlanta 81-72. Fowles also became the 10th player in WNBA history to reach 2,500 rebounds.
“Overall, you get to that point where you look at matchups, who’s guarding who, are they playing zone, who do we have in,” stated the Lynx leader Cheryl Reeve. “You try to plan a possession ahead and all the end of game stuff that you have to prepare for.
We made some shots when they tried to get a couple key stops. (Rebekkah) Brunson had a big play and Seimone (Augustus) had a big play. We had some big plays and big stops at the other end.”
The Dream knew they had to be slow and steady in this match-up and have learned not to be intimidated by the Lynx’s seasoned roster. Tiffany Hayes and Bria Holmes worked hard to get their team into a rhythm in the first half, but Atlanta found it difficult to keep up with the tempo and struggled to be efficient with their possessions.
Fowles was not looking to make it easy on the Dream as she put up 21 first half points. Her production was seamless with only one missed shot the entire first two quarters. Minnesota would hold the lead going into the half, 49-43.
During the break, Atlanta’s Coach Michael Cooper, told his team, “Don’t treat Fowles like she is super human, she is not. She is simply out working you.”
Headed into the third, the Dream’s main goal would be to find an answer for Fowles and shut her down. Right out of the gates, Atlanta made an immediate change as Hayes cut the lead to just two. With just over four minutes left in the third, Holmes nailed a three pointer to push the Dream into the lead 58-56.
“Atlanta utilized more zone and neutralized Sylvia (Fowles) better. We were a little more stagnant in our attack, not good shots, and our defense wasn’t as good, especially in the third quarter,” said Minnesota’s head coach Cheryl Reeve.
Atlanta looked poised and in their groove, but Minnesota wouldn’t let things get out of sight for long. With seconds remaining in the third period, Renee Montgomery threw up a beautiful little buzzer beater that nudged the Lynx back into the lead, 66-64.
In the final quarter, victory looked possible for Atlanta as lead changes shifted like the tide, but Minnesota started to pick up their pressure in the paint, and Fowles started to look super human after all. The Dream was unable to find consistency with their shots, only shooting 36% from the floor. Shots were going up, but nothing was hitting.
Minnesota’s deep bench and super hero, Fowles proved to be the stronger team as they outlasted Atlanta 81-72, and swept the Dream in the regular season series and for the ninth consecutive time.
“It’s all mental and that’s something that I worked on this off season. I pride myself on that,” Fowles stated after the game on her mental toughness. “I think my coaches do a really good job of making it awkward in practice for me. In the games, it flows for me. I get beat up in practice so when I get to the game I know it’s no way that it can be worse than this. A lot of credit goes to my coaches.”,
“At the end of the game, we just didn’t make the plays we needed to. We missed a couple rebounds. We weren’t executing as well, and there were a couple stops we needed to get,” stated Atlanta’s Elizabeth Williams who contributed 16 points, 11 rebounds on the night.
The Dream will go on to play the New York Liberty on Friday and will have to secure a win in New York to hold their eighth seed in the playoff push. Meanwhile, Minnesota gets a rematch with the Los Angeles Sparks on Friday and will look to secure the one seed.