Dream want sharpened focus against Phoenix

Dream coach Marynell Meadors wants to see her team improve in two areas Thursday night against Phoenix at Philips Arena.

She wants her players to be more consistent, and she wants her reserves, which she said before the season would be a team strength, to look more like they did in the second game of the season than they did in Sunday’s loss to Indiana.

“We played really good for 14 minutes, and then we flatlined on things,” she said. “We’ve got to get through fatigue, the officiating, whatever is distracting us. We can’t let that happen.”

The Dream fell apart in all areas against Indiana after taking a nine-point lead and eventually lost by 16. Everyone played a part.

Many of the starters crossed the line from talking to the refs into the area of complaining to them about Indiana’s physical style of play. Meadors, who received one of two technical fouls called against the Dream, said her players don’t need to worry about the officiating. She said that’s her job.

Point guard Lindsey Harding said she and her teammates weren’t distracted, though she said it may have looked that way. She was more concerned that they stopped playing fast. They didn’t make hard cuts, and they didn’t come off screens as tough as they needed to. She said remembering their strengths will help eliminate the distractions.

“We need to focus on us and what makes us great,” she said. “We need to play quick and run up and down the floor.”

While the starters had trouble finding a second gear after the Dream opened the lead, the bench couldn’t find a first gear.

Laurie Koehn and Cathrine Kraayeveld, two players Meadors acquired in the offseason, failed to make an impact in the first half and barely played in the second. Ketia Swanier, another acquisition, and Tiffany Hayes, a second-round draft pick, played a lot of minutes, but weren’t able to provide a consistent spark.

Though the season is just three games old, the reserves aren’t having the impact that Swanier said they can.

“I think we can be better. As a matter of fact I know we can be better,” Swanier said. “We need to continue to bring that spark.”

The six reserves are averaging 18.3 points per game, which was padded by 34 points scored during last week’s blowout of New York. In the two losses to Indiana, which Meadors describes as a championship-level squad, they have combined to score 15 points, including only two Sunday.

It’s a level of production that can’t continue if the Dream (1-2) hope to make it to the WNBA finals for the third consecutive year.

“You look at starters, and starters are one thing ... but the bench is the X-factor,” Harding said. “They are the ones that will win games for us. But it’s not just them. We all didn’t play well. We started it and they came in and followed us. We have to set the tone early so people can come off the bench and continue what we start.”