The struggles are seemingly never-ending for the Dream.

Atlanta entered Sunday’s game against the Liberty having lost six of its last eight and New York had no sympathy, shooting 71% in the first half to cruise to a 96-75 victory.

The Dream (6-9) have dropped three in a row and seven of their last nine games after winning four of six to start the season.

Atlanta gave up 62 first-half points (29 in the first quarter, 33 in the second) and it was the seventh time this season Atlanta has given up at least 25 points in the first quarter.

Atlanta buckled down in the second half as it outscored New York, 37-34, but that was after the Liberty built a 33-point lead, which was too large for the Dream to overcome.

“I thought our effort and energy in the second half was much better than it was in the first,” Dream coach Tanisha Wright said. “Our goal and our focus right now is to try to find small ways to get better. We can’t look at the big picture right now because we need to put together small things to make us a better team. When we start getting better in those small areas, I think that’ll make us a better team.”

It was the first time this season Atlanta lost by at least 20 points and the sixth double-digit loss of the season. The Dream shot 38% as a team, and that was no match for New York’s ferocious first half, in which it shot 51.4% from the field.

Sabrina Ionescu had a double-double, with a game-high 26 points and 11 assists. Ionescu shot 50% from the field (9 of 18).

“Sometimes it’s just not being sharp,” Wright said of her team’s defense. “Sometimes it’s not executing the way we want to guard people. There is nowhere ever in our game plan where we were supposed to go under on Sabrina Ionescu. I’m not goofy enough to make a game plan where I would go under on a kid like that who shoots the ball.”

Sixteen New York points off 13 Atlanta turnovers didn’t help the Dream’s case.

“I also thought we turned the ball over too much,” Wright said. “When we turned the ball over, they made us pay almost every single time in transition. We didn’t turn it over a lot but the fact that we did turn it over, they made us pay. That opens up easy opportunities for your opponent. We have to be a team that can really execute the game plan to a T, then limit our mistakes so people don’t take advantage of them.”

One aspect of improvement was points in the paint. After being outscored 48-26 in paint points during Friday’s loss to Indiana, the Dream were outscored by just four in the paint on Sunday, 44-40.

“I thought they were intentional about that,” Wright said. “I thought we had an advantage playing inside-out. We had some good ball movement. In the first half we had a couple possessions where we moved the ball really well. We had another one in the second where we ended up getting a corner three. As long as that’s a focus – playing inside out – whether it’s on a drive or on a pass, we’ll get good looks.”

In Atlanta’s first game against New York – a 78-61 June 6 loss – the Liberty won the rebounding battle 44-34. On Sunday, Atlanta outrebounded New York 39-38.

“That’s always a positive,” Wright said. “[With] offensive rebounding I thought we did a good job with that. I thought we did a pretty good job of playing in transition.”

Tina Charles was another bright spot for Atlanta as she scored a team-high 19 points with seven rebounds.

Ionescu was not the only New York player with a double-double. Jonquel Jones joined the club with 15 points and 11 rebounds.

New York (15-3) has won 11 of its last 12 and is atop the league standings. Atlanta is in eighth place and 7 1/2 games behind the Liberty.

The gauntlet continues for Atlanta as the Dream hit the road. Atlanta will travel to face second-place Connecticut on Friday before another matchup with New York on Sunday.

“The mindset is to get better,” Wright said. “We have too many areas of growth that we need to get better in, to think about bigger things. Boxing out should be a focus. [We need to be] in help when we’re supposed to be in help. When the ball is on one side of the floor, we need to be in help when we’re supposed to be there. Before we can worry about schematics and different strategies and stuff like that, we have to be able to do the basic things.”