Dream suffer fifth loss in eight games after another slow start

Another sluggish start. Another a Dream loss.

The Dream trailed by 11 points after the first quarter Sunday and never got closer than six the rest of the game as they tied their season low in points scored in a 73-64 loss to New York at Philips Arena.

The early-game struggles worry coach Michael Cooper. He said the Dream haven’t gotten off to one good start through eight games this season, not even in their three victories.

“That’s something as a coaching staff we kind of have to sit down and look at and rectify but it’s more so the players,” Cooper said. “They understand the game plan coming in. You’ve got to get out and get it started, especially at home on these teams.”

Two bench players powered the Liberty’s offense Sunday. Rookie guard Brittany Boyd had a game-high 18 points, including 16 after Liberty starting guard Tanisha Wright was ejected late in the second quarter.

Reserve center Carolyn Swords chipped in 12 while the Liberty bench outscored the Dream bench 34-13.

Without forward Tiffany Hayes, the Dream’s second-leading scorer, and forward/center Aneika Henry, who are both at the 2015 European Games, the Dream shot a season-low 29.7 percent. Forward Angel McCoughtry led the Dream with 17 points but she was 4-for-16 from the field.

“We just weren’t hitting shots,” said guard Roneeka Hodges, who was second on the team with 12 points. “It’s a different game when you hit shots.”

Coming off a last-second win Friday, the Dream (3-5) scored the first four points of Sunday’s game. But the Liberty (4-3) rushed by for a 21-10 after the first quarter.

“You would think [Friday’s win] would catapult us to play a lot better than we did,” Cooper said. “I’m amazed and surprised that we didn’t come out with much more effort.”

Late in the second quarter, the game got chippy. With 2:12 left, there was a confrontation between Wright, McCoughtry and Dream guard Matee Ajavon. The referees handed out four technical fouls on the play, including two to Wright, which prompted her automatic ejection.

While McCoughtry pushed Wright, she remained in the game with one technical foul. Less than a minute later, Boyd received a technical, the fifth of the half, after fouling Ajavon.

“They’re a feisty team,” Cooper said of the Liberty, who are coached by Bill Laimbeer. “[Laimbeer’s] got them playing physical and that’s one way they approach us.”

Despite the loss of Wright, the Liberty led 40-28 at halftime and began the third quarter on a 8-0 run while the Dream endured a nearly three-minute scoring drought.

“We were trying to get to the basket, but they all were sitting there,” forward Sancho Lyttle said. “They didn’t even care if we wanted to shoot threes or not. They just sat in the paint.”

The Dream entered the day shooting 27.2 percent on 3-pointers and those long-range struggles continued Sunday. They shot 5-for-21 on 3-pointers Sunday (23.8 percent), although Hodges was 3-for-7.

The Dream entered the fourth quarter trailing 55-41 but they pulled within six with 37.2 left. That was as close as they got, though, and once again, they were left searching for answers to their early-game woes.

“I can’t even tell you what we’re supposed to do,” Lyttle said. “[Cooper] gives us plays we’re supposed to run and we know what we’re up against.”