Atlanta and Tulsa were the two worst shooting teams in the WNBA coming into today's game. Neither team had won a game since the middle of July. On Sunday afternoon, Atlanta used a dominant shooting performance to pull out a 98-90 win over a reeling Tulsa squad.
"I thought it was a very difficult game for both teams, I think both teams are struggling at this point in time in the season," Atlanta head coach Michael Cooper said.
The Dream (8-14) are at the bottom of the standings in a loaded Eastern Conference. To stay afloat in the playoff race, Atlanta must find ways to win on a consistent basis. Players such as Angel McCoughtry and Damiris Dantas, have to continue guiding their team through a tough second-half schedule.
“It felt good, it always feels good to win, but I am very proud of this team on how we played together,” McCoughtry said. “The East (conference) is very tight, we just have to get some East wins and build off of this.”
McCoughtry set the tone today with her excellent all-around play. The All-Star finished the game with 23 points, a team-high nine rebounds, and four assists. McCoughtry is one of the league's best players at drawing contact and was able to get into a rhythm early at the free throw line. She attempted and made the most free throws for Atlanta, going 6-8 from the charity stripe.
While McCoughtry pushed the tempo on offense, her teammates followed suit. The Dream had five players score in double figures. As a team, Atlanta shot an impressive 51% from the field.
Damiris Dantas contributed 18 points for the Dream, and Roneeka Hodges came off the bench to add 14 points. Atlanta has shown its offensive potential with players like McCoughtry and All-Star Shoni Schimmel leading the way, yet haven't been able to translate that into wins.
While Atlanta has the right ingredients for a playoff team, Tulsa is reeling and just trying to find a way to stay in the playoff hunt in the Western Conference.
“Finishing, you know we go into the fourth quarter with the lead and then the last two minutes we’re like deer in headlights, Riquna Williams said. “I think that’s a difference. When a team punch, we don’t punch back. That’s the best way I can explain it.”
Riquna Williams has assumed the duties of being Tulsa's go-to player on offense. While Williams is playing admirably, she finished the day with 35-points, her play on the court is being overlooked because of the Shock's nine-game losing streak.
The only other player to score in double digits for the Shock was guard Karima Christmas. She finished with 18 points, four rebounds and four assists.
“We have shown that we can stay in the game but it all comes down to the end now,” Christmas said. “We haven’t been finishing the game the way that we’ve started.”
It's surprising how Tulsa still sits in third place in the Western Conference playoff standings. The Shock hold a two-game lead over Los Angeles in the standings. Since the return of Candace Parker, though, the Sparks have their eyes set on the postseason, and many expect them to make the playoffs.
Tulsa has a few days to rest before trying to snap their current losing streak against Connecticut on Wednesday.
Atlanta also has some time off before facing off against the Western Conference's top team Minnesota Lynx on Friday.