First off, I want to start off this column by giving an update on the Brittney Griner situation. The Russian government is currently in talks with the U.S. government about a potential prisoner exchange. Let’s all hope and pray that these talks are successful and that Griner, Paul Whelan and all the American citizens detained in Russia will be able to come from overseas and be reunited with their families.
On to the actual game itself, the Atlanta Dream’s playoff hopes took a major hit when they fell flat on their faces against the New York Liberty 80-70 on Friday night. They now fall to 10th place in the WNBA standings, two spots out of the final playoff seed. They will have to win Sunday and get help from the Phoenix Mercury in order to make it in.
Observing the game from afar, it was easy to see why the Dream lost this game. The Liberty had 20 assists compared to just 13 for the Dream. The Liberty as always were led by All-Star Sabrina Ionescu with 15 points, eight rebounds and six assists. As a team, the Liberty shot 47% and had three other starters in double-digits: Betnijah Laney (17 points), Natasha Howard (14 points and 12 rebounds) and Crystal Dangerfield (18 points and six assists).
Meanwhile, on the other end of the court, inefficiency ruled the day for the Dream as they shot just 37.5% as a team, led by Rhyne Howard, who had 14 points, but on 21.4% shooting. Aari McDonald also had 10 points, but on 26.7% shooting. The two other double-digit scorers for the Dream were Erica Wheeler (16 points) and Cheyenne Parker (13 points).
Truth be told, even though I’ve been impressed with this team all year long, I’m not sure about this team’s chances of making the playoffs because of their relative youth and inexperience. Atlanta Dream head coach Tanisha Wright summed it up perfectly when she said that her team was “flat” and “a little bit rattled” and that they “didn’t handle the moment like we needed to handle the moment.”
That certainly is true, as the Dream initially got off to a hot start, yet they still allowed the Liberty to shoot almost 80 percent at one point in the first quarter and the Liberty were able to go into the second quarter leading 31-27. After that, it was pretty much all Liberty and the Dream never led again, even leading by 22 points at one point.
With this loss, it all comes down to Sunday as the Dream head up to Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York to face the Liberty for the second straight game. They must win on the road and the Mercury must lose to the defending champion Chicago Sky in a rematch of last year’s WNBA Finals in order for them to make the playoffs. As someone who played for the Liberty for three seasons, coach Wright is most certainly looking forward to the challenge.
“I’m a competitor at the end of the day,” coach Wright said. “I still enjoy competing, so every day, I ask them to go out there and enjoy competing.”
We’ll see if that’s the case because frankly, I was shocked by this team’s lack of competitive spirit in their home finale, as they allowed way too many wide open shots. Also, there was no sense of urgency at the end of the game on offense as they took their sweet time on too many possessions and even had a few travels with three minutes to go.
I truly hope that this team will imitate their coach’s example and really go out and compete and take that next step as a young team. It has been fun covering this team all season long and I really look forward to seeing this team develop and grow in the future, but right now, let’s hope that they show some mettle when it counts.