Within the first three minutes of Sunday’s Atlanta Dream game against the Sun, it looked to be a repeat of the last two — both of which resulted in defeats of 20-plus margins.
This one saw the Dream fall behind early and down by 12 at halftime.
A week ago, a 12-point deficit would have turned into 24, coach Nicki Collen explained. On Sunday, the team pulled together and managed to tie the Sun 57-all with 5:30 remaining.
The second-half effort looked much more like the team that finished 23-11 in 2018 and made the WNBA Playoffs. Even with the improvement, Atlanta’s comeback bid against Connecticut fell just short at State Farm Arena.
“I think it was a disappointed locker room, but I think they have to be proud of how they competed,” Collen said after the, 65-59, loss.
Tiffany Hayes and Brittney Sykes each scored 14 — a season high for Hayes — and were aggressive in driving to the basket in the second half. Monique Billings, who sat out Thursday’s loss to Las Vegas with a hip injury, came off the bench and grabbed 10 rebounds. The three players were catalysts on offense and defense.
“I know when I come in, I’m going to bring energy,” Billings said. “(Just) knowing your roles.”
What hurt the Dream down the stretch was some of what has stagnated the offense this season. With players like Hayes and Sykes pushing the ball, there is a tendency for the other players to take a backseat. Collen and Sykes both explained the goal was to instead “hunt shots.”
On the other side, the Sun made clutch shots late. Center Jonquel Jones, who finished with a double-double, scoring 17 points and grabbing 13 rebounds, hit a 3-pointer with 1:41 remaining to secure the victory. Forward Alyssa Thomas also recorded a double-double, scoring 12 points and adding 12 rebounds.
Dream players hope they can carry the second-half energy going forward.
“Once we got (the first half) out of the way and we started moving and doing our thing on defense and actually talking you could start to see the old us,” Hayes said. “We’ve just got to put the whole game together.”
The Dream are 1-4 and face the Wings in Dallas Saturday.
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