After opening their season on the West Coast, the Atlanta Dream returned home looking to give their faithful plenty of reason to cheer. Fans nearly blew the top off the Gateway Center Arena as the Dream downed the Dallas Wings 83-78 Tuesday in their home opener in come-from-behind fashion.

The Wings almost shushed them after Arike Ogunbowale (24 points) scoring nine of her 18 first-half points in the second quarter, ripping apart the defense the Dream threw at her. She threw her body into her defenders, drawing favorable contact to get to the free-throw line.

“With Arike it’s hard, right?” Dream coach Tanisha Wright said post game. “She’s gonna make tough shots. You know that. She’s a great scorer, prolific scorer in this league. But your job is to make it tough. Don’t give her anything easy. And I thought in the second half, we did a great job of making it tough.”

The Dream held Ogunbowale to just 1-of-9 shooting in the second half.

That physicality didn’t stop on the other end of the floor, as Ogunbowale and the Wings left the Dream discombobulated. The Wings held the Dream to just 6-of-20 shooting in the half, forcing them to take shots over the top that kept them from attacking the paint.

However, Dream forward Naz Hillmon lit a fire that awakened the crowd. She hit a layup that gave the Dream their first lead since early in the game, putting them up 63-62 with nine minutes to play. It was two of her four points, but very important.

Hillmon’s spark came far before the Dream seized control with hustle plays that did just enough to reinvigorate her teammates. With 3:10 to play in the third quarter, Hillmon wrapped up a Wings player fighting for a rebound and forcing a jump ball. A little over two minutes later, she jumped into the passing lane to pick off a pass from Ogunbowale before pushing ahead to Rhyne Howard, who drew a foul on the layup.

“I thought Naz also did an amazing job stepping in and changing the energy of our team with her rebounding, just her defense, her running the floor,” Wright said. “We have to do a better job of doing that from the beginning though, right? Clearly, it’s not about scoring with us right now. Right? It’s all about our defense. Last year, we probably would have said something different -- scoring and defense. But right now it’s not about our scoring. It really is about our defense. We got to bear down and do a better job in the first half.”

Allisha Gray led five Dream players in double-figure scoring with 21 points. Cheyenne Parker had 16 points, Howard had 15 points and 10 rebounds, Tina Charles had 12 points and 11 rebounds and Aerial Powers had 10 points.

The Dream outscored the Wings 43-30 in the second half.

“It’s a big step from last year I will say,” Howard said of Gray’s night. “It’s just great being able to have that comfort when I know that she’s gonna perform like she did tonight. I’m excited to see it this early in the season. I know that she can do it. I know what she’s capable of every night and I’m looking for her to continue to do that. But when I have somebody else like her on the floor, I know that it leaves a little bit room for error for everybody else.”

The Dream capitalized on the swing in energy, opening the fourth quarter on an 8-0 run. It snapped the Dream’s cold-shooting spell as they knocked down 64.3% of their shots from the floor with just over 2:30 to play.

The Dream hustle plays helped bolster the shooting the Dream got from Gray, who went 4-of-4 from the floor in the third quarter. Gray’s on-target shooting came on time after she went 1-of-8 from the floor in the first half. She ended the night with 21 points after knocking down for four 3-pointers, all while trying to slow Ogunbowale.

The Dream held on even as former Dream forward Monique Billings threatened with a transition layup that forced a timeout late in the game. Billings, who had 20 points and 10 rebounds, then hit a pair of free throws that pulled the Wings back within 80-76 with 2:25 still to play.

“Good for Mo,” Wright said. “Twenty points, double-double, she was solid defensively against us tonight. I thought she did a great job of just executing a role. And because of that she had a stellar game. Now, like I said good for Mo because I want what’s best for Mo. She was somebody who was here for a long time and long-tenured player and that’s to be celebrated.

“On our end, we just have to do a better job of understanding what kind of player Mo is. We know she’s an energy player. We know she’s an offensive rebounder, a rim runner. She’s gonna go for block shots, like all those different things. So we just have to do a better job of combating that. And so, again, first half woes, all right. Second half I thought we did a much better job of correcting some of those things.”

With three returning All-Stars and having bolstered the roster with added experience in free agency, the Atlanta Dream enter 2024 with lofty expectations.