For the Atlanta Dream and Minnesota Lynx, the All-Star break did not provide the reset they’d sought. Both entered the break on losing streaks that since have continued. The Lynx have dropped four-straight games while the the Dream have lost seven in a row.
On Tuesday evening in Atlanta, one team will earn a much-needed victory.
The teams twice faced off in early July. The first matchup in Minnesota was a Lynx win, with Stephanie Talbot swishing five threes. Ten days later in Atlanta, the Dream dialed up their defense, holding their opponents to 53 points on the way to the victory, the last time they ended a game in the win column. As both teams enter tonight’s contest with lineup uncertainties and inconsistencies, these past matchups cannot necessarily inform the dynamics that may develop.
For Minnesota, these uncertainties and inconsistencies are trending toward the positive. After learning last week that Cecilia Zandalasini will not play in the WNBA this season due to injury, head coach Cheryl Reeve should receive a boost from the return of Seimone Augustus, who is listed as probable for tonight’s game. While an active Money Mone means Reeve will, yet again, have to adjust her lineup, a healthy Augustus can provide needed playmaking and help Minnesota cut down on the turnovers that have continued to give them trouble. In particular, Augustus’ familiarity will Sylvia Fowles should help the 2017 MVP get more touches in the paint.
Atlanta, in contrast, may be without their best playmaker. On Saturday, Tiffany Hayes seemed to suffer a broken nose just before halftime, requiring her to miss the second half of the Dream’s loss to the Chicago Sky. Atlanta’s offense, already anemic, almost fully stalls without Hayes. While Brittney Sykes is a solid pic- and-roll operator, her decision-making is not always optimal. Alex Bentley has playmaking potential, but she often resorts to inefficient isolation plays. Possibly, head coach Nicki Collen will empower rookie Maite Cazorla, whose willingness to probe and pass can infuse the Atlanta offense with energy.
When: Tuesday, August 6, at 7 p.m. ET
Where: State Farm Arena, Atlanta, GA
How to watch: Twitter
Keys to the matchup: During their losing streak, the Lynx’s defensive intensity has eluded them. Earlier in the season, it was lockdown defense that allowed the team to overachieve. Unfortunately, the return of Augustus likely will not help Minnesota on this end of the floor, as her gimpy knee, in combination with her age, will make it difficult for her to stay in front of the Dream guards. Defense also has been the key to success, or at least a semblance of success, for Atlanta. If both teams come to play, especially on the defensive end, expect a low-scoring slugfest.