The Dream are back in the WNBA playoffs for the third consecutive year.
After a slow start, Atlanta finished by winning seven of its last nine games to secure the Eastern Conferences’ No. 3 seed. The Dream (19-15) will open at Indiana (22-12) on Friday in the best-of-three series. They will host the Fever at the Philips Arena on Sunday.
The Dream split the season series with the Fever, 2-2, with each team winning at home.
“The matchup with them has always been a good battle because both teams are similar,” coach Fred Williams said.
Williams took over when Marynell Meadors, the coach and general manager who led the team to the previous two WNBA finals, was fired in late August. The move occurred five games after Meadors and standout player Angel McCoughtry returned from representing the U.S. at the Summer Games. The team was 12-12 at the time, in third in the Eastern Conference.
The team’s closing run coincided with that move, as well as the return of center Erika de Souza, who missed the first half of the season because of her duties to Brazil’s national team.
In 15 games, she is averaging 11.6 points and 8.2 rebounds per game, shoring up a position the team struggled to fill earlier in the season.
“For us to bounce back after the Olympics and generate some energy, I’m very proud of that,” Williams said.
Williams said the series with the Fever likely will be decided by who plays better transition offense and defense. Both teams like to run, averaging a little more than 78 points per game.
“It’s a game of runs, especially in the playoffs,” Williams said. “Stopping each team’s runs is where we have to tighten things up in practice.”
The Fever likely will focus on trying to contain McCoughtry, who leads the WNBA with an average of 21.4 points per game. But Atlanta is balanced, featuring three more players who are averaging at least 10 points per game.
The Fever are also balanced, with three players averaging at least 10 points per game, led by Tamika Catching’s 17.4.
But the Dream have the experience of making it to the finals the previous two years. Williams said the team will fall back on the “one game at a time” mantra that served them well before.
“You always want to be there,” Williams said. “Winning it would be great. Being there will be super, but we just have to work hard at it.”