The Atlanta Dream defeated the Dallas Wings in their season opener on Friday, 76-72. They did so by going on a 29-17 fourth-quarter run to erase an eight-point deficit.
Atlanta was behind by six points with just 2:13 remaining. But Renee Montgomery started things off with a key three-pointer with 1:57 left and Jessica Breland made a go-ahead jump shot with 1:17 remaining.
Breland finished with 17 points while Montgomery added 15 more. Tiffany Hayes had an off-day offensively, scoring just 5 points on 2-of-8 shooting.
For Dallas, Allisha Gray led with 14 points off the bench and Arike Ogunbowale scored 12 points in her WNBA regular-season debut.
Here is why the Dream were able to complete the comeback in their first game of the season:
Atlanta stuck to their defense-first plan throughout the game
The Dream held the Wings to just 35.1 percent shooting for the game even though they were out-rebounded, 42-31. The rebounding statistic may be a bit misleading though, especially on the offensive end.
Dallas grabbed a total of 17 offensive rebounds with Glory Johnson grabbing 5, Kayla Thornton grabbing 3 and Imani McGee-Stafford grabbing 4 more. Usually, offensive rebounds lead to easier shot opportunities, often by the rebounders themselves. However, Johnson shot 2-of-7 from the field and Thornton shot just 3-of-13, so their efforts were in vain.
Atlanta didn’t just keep Dallas from making many of their shots. The Dream also blocked 11 of the Wings’ shots, including this one by Elizabeth Williams:
The Dream’s experience helped them come back against an inexperienced Wings team
The Dream didn’t play particularly well for most of the game. But their veteran experience and time together from last season helped them pull through in their comeback in the last two minutes of the game.
Ogunbowale fouled Brittany Sykes on a three-point shot attempt with 1:24 left when Dallas was still leading 71-68. Sykes made two of the three free throws before Breland made her go-ahead jumper.
It isn’t fair to blame a rookie like Ogunbowale for “losing” the game for Dallas with her late foul. But the Dream took advantage of her because she is getting used to the WNBA’s style of play, which spoiled her regular-season debut.
Dallas’ starting backcourt cannot be inefficient all season long
The Wings started Ogunbowale at point guard and Tayler Hill at shooting guard on Friday. Neither are known for being efficient shooters.
Ogunbowale shot just 5-of-16 from the field and made only 1-of-6 from three. Her shooting percentages should improve, but Ogunbowale probably won’t be making about 45 percent of her shots like she did in college. Still, if she can make catch-and-shoot plays like this consistently, it will be a big boost for Dallas, especially once Skylar Diggins-Smith returns from maternity leave:
Like Ogunbowale, Hill is also known as an inefficient volume shooter. But unlike Ogunbowale, Hill’s reputation is set at this point. She has shot just 33.9 percent from the field over her six-year career. Hill shot 2-of-6 from the field on Friday, which is understandable, considering that the Wings were playing against the Dream. But her inefficiency can’t continue in the long run, or her role will diminish considerably as the season moves on.
Next games for the Dream and Wings
The Dream’s next game is on Friday, May 31 at 7:30 p.m. ET against the Seattle Storm. Though the defending champions are coming to town, they are without Breanna Stewart and Sue Bird, so Seattle will come in as an underdog.
The Wings’ next game is on Saturday, June 1 at 8 p.m. ET, when they host the Minnesota Lynx. Like the Wings, the Lynx are retooling after some significant roster turnover, with Maya Moore taking a sabbatical and Lindsay Whalen retiring. Though Dallas lost in heartbreaking fashion on Friday, they played very competitively and will be in good position to get their first win.