The Atlanta Dream roared back from a 29-point deficit but couldn’t overcome a pair of late clutch buckets from Jewell Lloyd and fell to the Seattle Storm 95-86 at the McCamish Pavilion.
The Dream stormed out to an early 9-2 lead on the strength of post-ups and transition layups. But the Storm settled down under the leadership on veteran guard Sue Bird (18 points, 10 assists). She slowed down the offense into half-court sets allowing Breanna Stewart to feast inside to the tune of 15 points on 7/9 shooting. Alysha Clark also chipped in 11 points and worked off the PNRs set by Bird.
Meanwhile, the Dream’s offense was neutralized with iso possessions and hero ball. The length of the Storm’s frontcourt was a nightmare for McCoughtry on drives and she wasn’t getting the benefit of the ref’s whistle. She shot just 2/9 in the first half. As a whole, the team could only muster 33% from the field while the Storm’s crisp offense shot a blazing 60% for a 53-34 halftime lead.
The third quarter saw the Dream played to their strengths by relying on their quickness for fastbreaks and forcing calls on contested layups. McCoughtry scored 21 in the second half, including 3/4 from downtown. Sharpshooter Tiffany Hayes was also a spark with 15 of her 23 coming after halftime. The hometown club outscored the Storm 29-19 to pull within 72-63 heading into the fourth.
Atlanta would cut the deficit to six on a Sykes three, but Lloyd answered with a three and a pullup jumper to push the lead to 77-66. Later, Stewart would deliver a dagger three-pointer to effectively push the game out of a reach with Seattle up 86-71 and five minutes remaining.
Sykes was visibly frustrated after the game, lamenting “other factors” that affected Atlanta’s fourth-quarter comeback attempt. It was a not-so-veiled reference to the technical foul she received with a minute left in regulation. Although the game was already out of reach, Hayes had been jawing with the refs all quarter over perceived missed calls.
Overall, the game was disappointing for the Dream on several levels. One, it was against an elite team and a chance to show they belong in that conversation. This will cause some observers to write their earlier season win over the Storm as a fluke. Second, it was the first of seven home games this month. They’ve underachieved this year in front of their fans (3-6) and this will have to change asap if they hope to enter the playoffs with a strong seeding.
The Dream will be back in action on Sunday, July 8 against the Phoenix Mercury.