Dream forward Reshanda Gray made sure no one would forget about her during the WNBA’s Olympics break.
Gray posted career highs in points, minutes and rebounds as the Dream beat the Wings 93-88 in Atlanta’s last game before the break. Gray’s 22 points and 10 rebounds gave the second-year player her first professional double-double.
“I give a lot of credit to my teammates,” Gray said. “I was just going, and the opportunities opened up for themselves. I crashed the boards and they didn’t box me out, so I attacked.”
Gray was pivotal in an important stretch of minutes for the Dream. After trailing the Wings (9-16) for the better part of the first half, Atlanta (13-12) came alive in the third quarter. The Dream outscored the Wings 17-5 to open the quarter and grab control.
Cooper said he knew it was important to get several players in the game in the third quarter. He also had a sneaking suspicion had done too much too soon, leaving Dallas in need of a breather.
“This team came out and gave us a left hook straight down the middle,” Cooper said. “I thought they used up a lot of energy to get that lead.”
The Dream led for the rest of the fourth quarter, but the Wings close the gap in the final minutes. Atlanta held them off thanks to some big defensive plays from Elizabeth Williams as well as free throws from Layshia Clarendon.
Clarendon, who finished the night with 17 points, had been in a similar situation before. She hit a pair of free throws against Dallas on July 8 that sent the game to overtime.
Still, the past experience did make this go around any easier.
“I think when you make one, you just have to get yourself out of your head,” said Clarendon, who shot 80 percent from the free-throw line. “You build a little more confidence if you’ve been there before, but it’s definitely a high-pressure moment.”
Atlanta’s latest win made the Dream bookends to the sour end of Dallas’ first half. The Wings go to the break with a six-game losing streak; The first and last loss of the skid came against the Dream.
Friday’s win was in fact the third victory for Atlanta over Dallas this season. It also meant the Dream ended the de facto first half of the season with an above-.500 record.
The Dream come back to the court on Aug. 26 with only nine games left before the playoffs begin. Cooper was adamant about the importance of the break, saying the teams that come back fit and fired up will be the ones that reach the postseason.
Gray, fresh off her best outing with the Dream, echoed her coach’s mindset.
“(Ending with a win) is important with a month without basketball,” Gray said. “Anything can happen when you come back. Once the break is over, you want to see which teams improved and which dropped.
“Hopefully, we’re at the top.”
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