In a contest that was tied 11 times and had 11 lead changes, victory would be decided by a Dream or Fever starter having a career-high scoring game or by players providing key production off the bench. For Atlanta, it was the latter, thanks to stellar play from Layshia Clarendon and Imani McGee-Stafford down the stretch.
Just over a minute into the fourth quarter, McGee-Stafford dropped in a layup off of a Renee Montgomery assist to tie the game at 51-all. But in the next few possessions, Dream players missed shots, turned the ball over and picked up some personal fouls. And this is when the action really started.
Down by four points at the 6:47 mark, a McGee-Stafford jump shot off of an assist from Clarendon pulled Atlanta to within two. Although the Dream had not yet regained the lead, it was this shot — all swoosh — that seemed to dispirit the Fever and start a major shift in momentum.
McGee-Stafford’s shot was followed by a charging foul and two turnovers from Indiana’s Natalie Achonwa. McGee-Stafford left the game with 5:56 left on the clock and Clarendon tied it up on free-throws.
Tied up! 55-55— Atlanta Dream (@AtlantaDream) June 14, 2018
5 minutes left in the 4th.
This is when Atlanta’s defense clamped down hardest, forcing Indiana into bad shots, leading to turnovers and a shot-clock violation.
Defense leads to offense, and Angel McCoughtry capitalized for Atlanta with a pull-up jumper. On the other end, a turnover by Candice Dupree resulted in a steal for Clarendon, who banked a three-pointer off an assist from Tiffany Hayes.
It’s okay to go ahead and call Clarendon’s shot a dagger. It led to an Indiana timeout, a bad possession by the Fever coming out of the timeout and a second personal foul for Victoria Vivians who, by this point, was visibly frustrated.
Veteran Dupree gave a pep talk to help level the rookies’ heads and Indiana made some big shots down the stretch, including Erica Wheeler with a three-pointer with 00.7 seconds left in the game. But the shot fell much too late, along with other late-game baskets by Dupree and Achonwa, which mostly served the cosmetic function of saving the Fever from a double-digit loss.
Although the box score does not exactly lie, it is not entirely truthful either. Missing from the columns and rows is important context about the timing of shots, the effects of those shots on the momentum of the game and the power of players to rev their engines in close games, down the stretch, with the game on the line.
Layshia Clarendon finished with 9 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist and 3 steals, while Imani McGee-Stafford tallied 6 points and 2 rebounds in the Atlanta win.
Atlanta’s dreamy D
There has been much talk this season about the Dream upsetting higher-ranked teams, like the Sun, the Lynx and the Storm. But Atlanta has demonstrated quite clearly that they belong in the same conversations as those supposedly more dominant teams — beating them outright, not upsetting them. A big part of Atlanta’s wins, including in the victory over the Fever yesterday, is the team’s cinder-block defense.
By cinder block, I mean they crush their opponents with unrelenting pressure. After Indiana’s star rookie, Kelsey Mitchell, was held to just two points, perhaps she would agree. And the cinder block placed on her head was named Jessica Breland, who grabbed 13 rebounds on the afternoon.
In addition to Clarendon’s 3 steals, three other Atlanta players picked pockets for a total of 8 steals for the team. Additionally, the Fever turned the ball over 13 times (to Atlanta’s 9) and Indiana players picked up 24 personal fouls (to Atlanta’s 17).
Breland and Elizabeth Williams had some big rejections for the Dream as well.
Dream (72) vs. (67) Fever
Tiffany Hayes was the game-high scorer with 23 points for Atlanta. Angel McCoughtry finished with 16 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals.
Candice Dupree was the team-high scorer for Indiana with 17 points, with Natalie Achonwa and Tiffany Mitchell adding double-digit scoring contributions.
Victoria Vivians had a breakout game, of sorts, with 13 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 steal.
Play of the night
Tiffany Hayes with a little shake-and-bake at the buzzer.
Where do the Fever go from here?
The Fever didn’t lose this game; they got beat by the Dream. Four players scored in double figures on a night when Kelsey Mitchell was silenced to two points. In other words, Indiana competed and played well, down to the final buzzer. If Fever Head Coach Pokey Chatman’s goal for her players is to keep them from single-digit losses: mission accomplished. Surely, this strategy will keep morale from falling too low until the time that their effort begins to translate into wins. With the league being so competitive right now, it will take a team falling asleep on the Fever (or facing them while short-staffed) for Indiana to sneak a win.
An 0-10 start to the season has to be demoralizing. But this team hasn’t given up on their season, or each other. Perhaps fans shouldn’t give up on them either.
NBA TV added 5 games to this week’s schedule!
Of course, this means more games for the national-viewing audience.
Here ya go:
Next up in the WNBA
Hoops fans have three monster matchups to look forward to Friday night — two of which will be airing live on NBA TV, starting at 8 p.m. EST.
But the action tips off at 7 p.m. on League Pass, when the Sparks take on the Mystics.
Stay tuned for previews!
- Inside the W with Michelle Smith: With the Sun rising and not going down, we’re basically in Finland or something.
- Here’s a fun look at the Battle of the Big Women, featuring Liz Cambage and Brittney Griner.
- Matt Ellentuck spoke with Lindsay Whalen about the grind of coaching full-time and playing full-time.
- Monique Currie of the Mystics loves Twitter games, talking to trash with random strangers ... which is pretty cool.
- Kia Nurse’s playlist is all about running the town. Looks like she’s making inroads with that so far in New York.
- Simone Westbrook has been granted seventh-year eligibility from the NCAA. This article lists her as a graduate and does not mention graduate school. It is clear how this benefits the school, but what benefit, if any, is there to the player?
- Honor Culpupper: A hoopin’ toothless teen wonder.
Scorching the status quo
Meet tennis up-and-comer Sachia Vickery.
Tired of being the target of racist taunts in the stadiums and online, Vickery began pushing back.
See how this works, folks?
All Vickery did was show up to work at her office, which happens to be a tennis court. Racists think she doesn’t belong there because, surely, after Serena and Venus Williams, the sport of tennis has met its quota for black people. So, they try to intimidate her with racial abuse. But this is nothing new — just look the number of black and brown soccer and hockey players who get pelted with bananas for daring to show up to work in pursuit of their dreams.
Just last year, Brazilian midfielder Everton Luiz left the field in tears after enduring racist chants. The world has a racism problem, it’s unacceptable and it is hard to imagine how humanity can possibly survive so long as it continues.
So, a word to the racists: If it pains you to see black people competing in certain sports, then get off the couch, train and grab the roster spots yourselves.
In other news ...
- Forbes has something on inclusion of women in best basketball player in the world discussions. Better late than never?
- Oh, cool — the NCAA is making it easier for students to transfer schools. Too bad student-athletes are still not guaranteed a day off, though.
- Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders are paid less than the mascot. This is unsurprising, considering that mainstream sports media prefers to put silly mascots on their front pages instead of female athletes competing in-season.
- If skateboarding can flip the white male script, other sports can too. But it’s not just sports that need an overhaul. Tech and media are two industries with abysmal employment records when it comes to women and people of color.
- On what planet does it make sense to release someone on bail who has been arrested on suspicion of violent sex crimes — a spree of them? Does this rule only apply to former NFL players, or ... ?
How to #WatchThemWork all season
Shine brighter. * flicker flicker *