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Wings fall to Dream in 2022 season opener

Missing their starting frontcourt due to overseas commitments, the Dallas Wings got off to a slow start in their 2022 home opener and were unable to overcome it.

Atlanta Dream v Dallas Wings
Arike Ogunbowale (right) was held in check in the Wings’ season opener, scoring just seven points and committing six turnovers.
Photo by Jim Cowsert/NBAE via Getty Images

The Dallas Wings opened their 2022 season with a loss at home to the Atlanta Dream, 66-59. Marina Mabrey led Dallas in scoring with 20 points while Allisha Gray chipped in 12 points and 9 rebounds; Rhyne Howard led Atlanta with 16 points.

As the final score suggests, the Wings offense struggled for most of the game. A 29-11 first quarter in favor of the Dream set the tone for the evening, with Dallas head coach Vickie Johnson going deep into her bench early in search of a combination that would stop the Wings from getting run out of their own building, and though they were able to cut the lead to single digits before halftime and keep things close in the second half, the Wings’ sluggish start ultimately proved too much to overcome.

Indiana Fever v Dallas Wings
Rookie point guard Veronica Burton played 21 minutes off the bench in her WNBA debut.
Photo by Joshua Huston/NBAE via Getty Images

The Wings’ minutes distribution says it all: Veteran point guards Moriah Jefferson and Tyasha Harris combined to play just 13 minutes, while rookie Veronica Burton played 21 off the bench. Both Jasmine Dickey (two minutes) and 2021 No. 1 overall draft pick Charli Collier (three minutes) played for a brief stretch in the late first quarter and were not seen for the remainder of the game.

It’s certainly not the start to the season that Johnson wanted, especially with forward Satou Sabally and center Teaira McCowan currently away from the team as they fulfill overseas obligations. Without the 6’4 Sabally and 6’7 McCowan, the Wings struggled on the glass, surrendering a pair of double-digit individual rebounding efforts (Cheyenne Parker and Monique Billings) and getting outrebounded as a team, 47-39. Making matters worse, starting forwards Isabelle Harrison and Kayla Thornton combined to shoot 2-for-15 from the field, oftentimes looking overmatched against the active and athletic Dream frontcourt.

The Wings front line was not alone in its offensive struggles — far from it. As a team, Dallas shot just 24.3 percent from the field (4-of-19 on 3-pointers) and turned the ball over 17 times. Arike Ogunbowale, in particular, looked especially out of sorts, scoring seven points on 3-of-14 shooting with six turnovers. The Wings did shoot 27 free throws and connected on 21 of them, which, in a way, puts into perspective just how poorly Dallas shot the basketball from everywhere else on the court.

Granted, some of these numbers will end up correcting themselves. It’s not often that WNBA teams shoot as badly from the floor as the Wings did on Friday — according to Across the Timeline, it was just the 26th time in league history a team shot under 25 percent from the field in a game — and individual scorers of Ogunbowale’s caliber are rarely held down for long. Along those same lines, Harrison, who shot 53.8 percent from the field in 2021, should be more effective offensively moving forward, even if she’s undersized against the WNBA’s top centers.

It does put more pressure on the Wings, though, to live up to the expectations they set for themselves heading into 2022. Dallas’ roster may be shorthanded at the moment, but one could say the same about most WNBA teams, due to the season’s relatively early start date — Sabally and McCowan are just two of many players who have yet to play with their respective WNBA teams. The Wings still have enough talent to compete, and they have a week in between their first and second games, so Johnson has plenty of time to prepare her squad for its upcoming matchup against the Washington Mystics (May 13 at 7 p.m. ET).