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Roundup: Rhyne with career-high 43, Atlanta with franchise-record 112

Rhyne Howard had that breakout sophomore game we were all waiting for and the Atlanta Dream beat a pretty good Los Angeles Sparks team by 28. Plus, Courtney Williams was heroic and prolific for the Chicago Sky and Courtney Vandersloot got the job done for the New York Liberty.

Los Angeles Sparks v Atlanta Dream
The Dream should be this excited for Rhyne Howard.
Photo by Adam Hagy/NBAE via Getty Images

Rhyne Howard dropped a career-high 43 points and her Atlanta Dream hit a franchise high in points as a team in their 112-84 victory over the Los Angeles Sparks Sunday afternoon at Gateway Center Arena in Atlanta.

Swish Appeal’s Cat Ariail had just gotten done writing the following about the Dream’s June:

At their best, they showed themselves to be a surefire playoff team that could give a top-four seed a test in the first round due to their toughness, tenacity and shotmaking. At their worst, they look like a lottery-bound mess, gifting opponents easy transition points because of a torrent of live-ball turnovers.

It was quite the start to July for the team from Atlanta, which is now 7-8 and in seventh place. Beating a team that has looked as good as the Sparks have at times by 28 is impressive. However, LA did fall out of the playoff picture to a ninth-place 7-10.

Howard was 14-of-20 from the field, 6-of-12 from beyond the arc and 9-of-9 at the charity stripe. Just two games ago, she scored just eight points. Her previous season high was 24, accomplished on June 23. Her previous career high was 33, set on May 15, 2022. Sunday’s performance raised her season scoring average from 16.4 to 18.2. It moved her ahead of Allisha Gray as the Dream’s leading scorer.

It seems clear to me that Howard is the most talented player on Atlanta’s roster, but she had taken a back seat to Gray in the scoring column before Sunday, there’s no doubt about that. She was even left off the All-Star Game rosters, while Gray and Cheyenne Parker both made it from the Dream.

The Dream’s best regular-season winning percentage came in 2018. That year their season high for points in a single game was 109. They went 23-11.

Other action

Chicago Sky over Indiana Fever, 89-87

Mid-range queen Courtney Williams dribbled to the left corner of the free throw line and shot a jumper that bounced on the rim and backboard before going in to make it 89-87 with 18.1 seconds remaining. She finished with 28 points on 12-of-17 shooting and 4-of-5 shooting from downtown to go along with eight assists. This as a follow-up to her first career triple-double on Friday. Only 12 players in WNBA history have ever recorded a triple-double.

The 28 points marked a season high. Williams scored in single digits six times in a row before the previous four games, all of which have seen her reach double figures. Included in that six-game stretch was a goose egg in 31 minutes played (0-of-8 from the field). Perhaps Sky interim head coach Emre Vatansever, who is now 1-0 as a WNBA head coach, will feature her more prominently in the offense than James Wade did. Williams raised her season scoring average from 8.4 to 9.6 with the performance. She is certainly a capable scorer, having averaged 16.5 points with the Dream during her All-Star season of 2021.

New York Liberty over Seattle Storm, 81-66

All-Stars Courtney Vandersloot and Breanna Stewart were at it again for the Liberty. Vandersloot finished with 18 points, five rebounds, 13 assists, four steals and two blocks while Stewart was good for 20 points, eight boards, six helpers and five swipes. New York maintained its spot in second place based on winning percentage.

Jewell Loyd posted 27 points in defeat.

Dallas Wings over Washington Mystics, 89-72