Atlanta Dream coach Nicki Collen concluded the postgame news conference clearly upset, but still willing to answer a question about how she felt.
“Bad. You guys know me. I’m transparent with you guys,” Collen said.
On Thursday, the Dream were overmatched from the opening tipoff, and the Las Vegas Aces flexed their muscles, namely their talented forwards – Aja Wilson and Liz Cambage – and took complete control of the game, winning 92-69 in State Farm Arena.
Early lapses in transition defense created a hole the Dream struggled to get out of throughout the rest of the game. The Aces went on a 10-0 run to start the game, which was a common thread. The Aces made runs, and the Dream simply never had much of a counter, only able to cut the Aces’ lead to 11 throughout the course of the game.
“That did us in, obviously,” Collen said of the bad start. “Then we just went through another lull.”
The Aces had a clear edge in size in their frontcourt and took full advantage in the first quarter. Wilson scored her points in bunches in the first half, finishing with 11 points and five rebounds.
The Dream’s Brittney Sykes helped cut into the deficit in the second quarter, she finished the game with 15 points, but the Dream couldn’t get enough stops and slow Wilson and Cambage, who stand at 6-foot-4 and 6-8, respectively. They were getting pretty much whatever they wanted around the rim.
The Aces outrebounded the Dream 47-33, and scored 46 points in the paint to the Dream’s 22.
“I mean, they’re huge,” Collen said. (But), we’ve got to box out. We’ve got to scrap and fight when our posts are boxing out bigger players. We’ve got to rebound better. It’s a lot of little things, it’s effort-based, it’s rotation-based and it’s finishing possessions.”
Sykes left the game briefly in the second quarter with what Collen said was a “tweaked” right foot, one she’s previously had surgeries on. She returned, however, later in the quarter.
In the backcourt, Aces guard Kayla McBride made a couple of 3-pointers and timely jump shots, which forced the Dream to defend more extensively on the perimeter. A few pick-and-rolls and efficient inside passes later, and the Aces were up by 20, going on a 11-0 run to take a 49-25 halftime lead.
In the second half, the Aces continued to knock down perimeter shots, primarily McBride, who finished the game with 13 points. As a result, the Dream’s defense continued to struggle to keep pace.
The Dream are a defensive-minded team, because of the philosophy of Collen. On Thursday, however, the defense was overwhelmed by a Las Vegas team that had far too much talent.
Dream players are frustrated, but know much of the season remains.
“We’re tired of losing,” guard Alex Bentley said. “Everybody is tired of losing, but we’ve got a great group, so we’re just going to stay positive, look in the mirror and see what each of us can do individually for our team.”
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