SEATTLE – The Dream did what they were supposed to do against the Storm and ended a four-game losing streak.
Atlanta (3-9) picked up a much-needed win Friday night, beating the Storm 77-66 in Alaska Airlines Arena. Tiffany Hayes led Atlanta with 21 points, Brittney Sykes had 11 and Elizabeth Williams and Jessica Breland finished with 10 each.
It was a well-rounded win, not one of those games with a breakout performance where a player stood out as the force behind the win. The group effort is what the team has been looking to see from each other.
“Getting the ‘W’ feels good for sure,” head coach Nicki Collen said. “In coaching, you build like a 17-point lead and see your team let it evaporate a little bit there at the end, but you have to put stock in the fact that you built that lead doing the right things. You have to grind it out and keep the lead. Defensively we really, really battled tonight, especially the first three quarters until they hit some threes late.”
Atlanta forced Seattle turnovers, hit shots and capitalized on the Storm’s inability to make a shot under the basket for long stretches. Injuries have changed the look of Seattle, who were without Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Jewell Loyd on top of Sue Bird and Breanna Stewart. But it’s tough to say that two weeks ago, the Atlanta team we’ve been concerned about would have even capitalized on the Storm’s mistakes and keep its lead following the ejection of Seattle head coach Dan Hughes.
“I saw a level of resilience,” Sykes said. “When the triple tech happened, a lot of teams would dig deep and find the energy. You heard the crowd – they’re electrifying. We dug deep and kept our foot on their necks. We just kept playing hard and kept reminding ourselves that it’s going to get done on the defensive end.”
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Atlanta started the game slow, and the Storm quickly jumped out to an 11-0 lead before a layup from Williams.
“Sometimes it just takes a call to action,” Collen said. “I think this team knows how good they can be. I don’t think they’ve ever not believed that we could walk into any gym and win. I’ve learned that I’ve got to use that early timeout.”
The tide began to turn with an Alex Bentley three pointer and the entrance of Monique Billings, who finished the first half with 8 points on 4-for-4 shooting.
But when center Marie Gülich hit her first-career three pointer in the second quarter, it really seemed like the game would be different for the Dream. It’s not because this is unexpected for Gülich. It’s actually what she was brought in to do. Collen wanted a center who could stretch the floor.
But the Dream have struggled offensively all season. Against Seattle, Atlanta finished with a season-high 20 assists along with a 42.0 field-goal percentage, shooting 40 percent from three and 91.7 percent from the free-throw line.
Following last week’s loss to the Liberty, both Hayes and Sykes said they were going to keep shooting. That the shots would fall eventually.
Haley Peters did not play and Nia Coffey was listed as out due to “flu-like symptoms.” Now, the Dream head to Phoenix on Sunday to take on the Mercury, who fell to New York 80-76 on Friday night.
“All of us are feeling good right now and we want to keep this feeling in our minds and in our bodies and in our hearts,” Hayes said. “Hopefully in the next game we can go out and do what we did today, excluding the bad start, and have that same energy that we did tonight. Then we’ll get more wins.”
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