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Game 2 Preview: Can the Atlanta Dream hang on against the Dallas Wings and stave off elimination?

Young stars Rhyne Howard and Satou Sabally both played historically well in Game 1 of the playoff series between the No. 5 seed Atlanta Dream and the No. 4 seed Dallas Wings, though the Wings otherwise looked like the more complete team. Atlanta will need more efficient scoring from its frontcourt in order to stay alive in the series.

Atlanta Dream v Dallas Wings
Atlanta Dream guard No. 10 Rhyne Howard was magnificent in her playoff debut, but it wasn’t enough to carry her team past Arike Ogunbowale and the Dallas Wings.
Photo by Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images

The No. 5 seed Atlanta Dream will try to stave off playoff elimination against the No. 4 seed Dallas Wings this Tuesday, Sep. 19 in the second game of their best-of-three series. Tipoff is scheduled for 9 p.m. ET, and the game will be broadcast nationally on ESPN.

The Dream opened the first quarter of Game 1 on a high note, outscoring Dallas 36-21 and briefly looking like a team that had grown from a poor regular-season showing (zero wins and three losses) against its playoff opponent. Atlanta quickly fell back into bad habits, however, and the Wings capitalized, greatly outscoring the Dream in the second and fourth quarters en route to a 20-point comeback and a comfortable 94-82 home win.

What happened in Game 1

For Atlanta, the loss overshadowed an incredible performance from second-year star Rhyne Howard, who gave another tantalizing glimpse into a bright feature with a game-high 36 points (eight made 3-pointers). Per ESPN Stats & Info, Howard became the youngest player in WNBA history to score at least 30 points in a playoff game, and her 36 points were the most ever scored by a WNBA player in her playoff debut (Across the Timeline).

Howard’s efforts were for naught, however, as the Wings got major offensive contributions from Satou Sabally (32 points; a franchise record for a single playoff game) and Arike Ogunbowale (24 points), while Teaira McCowan recorded a huge double-double of 17 points and 14 rebounds. Though the Wings missed eight free throws, they also outrebounded the Dream 44-32 and held Atlanta to 30.6 percent shooting from 2-point range, which was plenty good enough to secure the win.

What needs to happen in Game 2 for Atlanta, Dallas

In a way, this was one step forward, one step back for the Dream, who failed to score more than 78 points in each of their three regular-season losses to the Wings. In Game 1, the Dream got off to a hot start, and finished the game with 13 made 3-pointers—an impressive number for a team that hit 10 or more 3-pointers just four times in the regular season.

The Wings neutralized the Dream’s outside shooting, however, with an enormous 48-24 points in the paint advantage. Given the respective strengths and weaknesses of each team, it’s more likely that the Wings will have a similar rebounding advantage in Game 2 than the Dream again catching fire from the outside. Put simply, Atlanta’s frontcourt must rise to the challenge in order to extend the series; starting forwards Cheyenne Parker and Monique Billings combined to shoot 6-for-20 from the floor in Game 1 while Naz Hillmon played 16 scoreless minutes off the bench. With versatile defender Nia Coffey (hand) out for the rest of the season, Atlanta doesn’t have as much optionality in the frontcourt as it once did, either.

Atlanta Dream v Dallas Wings
Atlanta Dream forward No. 25 Monique Billings and the rest of the Dream frontcourt must score more efficiently in Game 2 if Atlanta is to keep the series going.
Photo by Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images

As for Dallas, the path to victory seems like a straightforward one. The Wings have an advantage on the glass (36.9 percent offensive rebounding rate in the regular season) on most nights, which can be enough to overcome a poor shooting night from the field. Otherwise, should Sabally and Ogunbowale continue to go toe-to-toe with Howard and Allisha Gray, the Wings have enough of an edge in other areas to once again be favored in the matchup.

Game information

No. 5 seed Atlanta Dream (0-1) vs. No. 4 seed Dallas Wings (1-0)

When: Tuesday, Sep. 19 at 9 p.m. ET

Where: College Park Center in Arlington, TX

How to watch: ESPN

Dream injury report: Nia Coffey (out; hand)

Wings injury report: Lou Lopez Sénéchal (out; knee), Diamond DeShields (out; knee)