On the season thus far, roster insights, All-Star break
Atlanta really needed a win over Los Angeles Tuesday night. And the Dream seemed poised to, heading into the fourth quarter with a five-point lead. But the Dream were outscored 32-15 in the fourth quarter. Tierra Ruffin-Pratt had a career night against Atlanta (not the first player to do that this season). It looked very familiar.
The Dream’s last game before the All-Star break serves as a reflection of the first half of the season: Disappointing. The Dream are 5-15 and on a five-game losing streak headed into the break and sit at the bottom of league standings, despite starting the year with much bigger expectations for themselves.
“I mean, it’s just unfortunately we’ve had our struggles,” Elizabeth Williams said Tuesday night before the game vs. the Sparks. “We’ve at least adjusted defensively and gave ourselves a chance in some of these games, but we still aren’t clicking like we want to be.”
The Dream have struggled to score. And it’s been noted repeatedly throughout the first 20 games that there’s no timetable for Angel McCoughtry’s return, that the Dream miss that vocal fire from the two-time Olympian and that 2018 All-WNBA guard Tiffany Hayes has been battling injuries all season (more on that later).
There’s no consistent scorer or consistent scoring across the board, though it seems others are making attempts to step up to fill the void.
Brittney Sykes had 29 points, 22 in the third quarter, at Phoenix. Renee Montgomery, who is averaging 8.3 points per game, scored 23 vs. the Chicago Sky. Monique Billings, who spent Monday night making 50 of 54 shots while her coach rebounded, had a career-high 16 points Tuesday. But in those games, scoring outburts from one player weren’t enough to push Atlanta to a win.
“We need to get multiple people making shots on the same day,” head coach Nicki Collen said before the game Tuesday.
The team seemed to be turning a corner, despite winnable games vs. Phoenix, Los Angeles and Chicago slipping through their hands. In Chicago, it came down to a wide open Stefanie Dolson layup after a pick and roll.
But then Hayes got injured during that game vs. the Sky, and the team reverted to the Dream that started the season. A blowout in Connecticut. Another in Washington. A blown lead in Atlanta vs. L.A.
“We’re kind of fortunate the break is coming when it is,” Williams said. “Because it’s a good chance for us to regroup a little bit. I think for us, we get rolling if we can get one win. We can use that as momentum.”
Williams in Skills Challenge, Hayes turned it down
Williams will represent the Dream in Vegas, participating in the All-Star Weekend Skills Challenge on Friday night. Otherwise, she said she’ll be using her trip to Nevada as a vacation.
By now you may know Hayes played vs. the Sparks, contributing 15 points, three steals and two assists, but she turned down an invite to the Skills Challenge down due to her lingering injuries, which currently include hamstring and ankle (she’s still wearing an ankle brace).
“Overall, it sucks,” Tiffany Hayes, says when discussing the injuries. “It’s just a lot of different things. I’m ready for them to be gone.”
She missed two games and decided not to play last minute despite warming up in Washington, mostly at the caution of Collen. Hayes won’t be in Vegas like Williams, but during the break she will be hosting a housewarming to celebrate the purchase of a house.
“There’s still a lot to be done, with moving and all that,” Hayes said. “Trying to get a lot of that out of the way. And rest. I need it.”
More insight into the Coates signing
The Dream announced last week the signing of forward Alaina Coates. She joined the team Monday following late arrival home from their road trip.
In the announcement, there was emphasis on defensive rebounding, but on Tuesday, Collen said, “It was a move for the future. Not that she doesn’t shore up some situational things now.”
Collen said Coates can help the Dream improve their current ranking of 11th in the league in scoring from five feet in and also bring size around the rim for potential putbacks on offensive rebounds.
“She’s someone that shores up those current issues, and I think going forward, her best basketball is still ahead of her.”
If you’ve been wondering where Coffey’s been
Nia Coffey started six games for the Dream, but hadn’t played from July 2 until July 19. She was sick in Seattle, then her neck was “pulled a little bit,” according to Collen, and after that the team started playing better, winning or losing close games.
“We kind of got into a rhythm without her,” Collen said. “Sometimes you don’t mess with what’s working. It’s a matter of, ‘These are the players that have gotten us over the hump.'”
When Hayes got hurt and missed the games in Connecticut and Washington, Coffey came off the bench vs. the Sun and scored 8 points and 7 rebounds, going 2-for-3 from three, and added 13 points in the game vs. the Mystics.
The Dream return to action Wednesday, July 31 in Indiana vs. the Fever.
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