When All-Star Angel McCoughtry went down with a season-ending knee injury two games ago, many wrote off the Atlanta Dream’s hope of a deep playoff run.
Someone forgot to tell that to the Dream.
With a season-record six three-pointers from Renee Montgomery (24 points) and strong support from Tiffany Hayes (15 points, 5 assists) and Elizabeth Williams (18 points, 9 rebounds, 5 blocks), the Dream beat the Dallas Wings 92-82 and extended their winning streak to five in a crucial final stretch of the season to determine playoff seeding.
Without McCoughtry, the Dream have relied on the two point-guard backcourt of Hayes and Montgomery. The latter has struggled with her outside shooting this year, going 3/31 in one stretch. She hopes her 6/7 effort from behind the arc against Dallas is a sign the cold streak is over.
“I was hoping for the law of averages to kick in,” Montgomery quipped. “Tip (Hayes) is so explosive. I tell her all the time I can be a decoy.”
The Dallas backcourt of Skylar Diggins-Smith and Allisha Gray zeroed in on Hayes, causing her to struggle with her shooting (5/18). However, the entire starting lineup stepped up with four of them playing over 30 minutes and hitting double figures. With Dallas playing without All-Star Liz Cambage, the Dream frontcourt of Williams and Jessica Breland (13 points) excelled on pick and rolls to the basket for high-percentage layups. On defense, the pair managed 7 blocks between them and made Diggins-Smith (27 points, 11/27, 10 assists) feel the contact anytime she drove into the lane.
“We have each other’s backs,” said Williams. “Jessica’s length, timing and smarts make her a great player.”
Despite holding a 49-39 lead at halftime, the Dream had a few second-half scares. Diggins-Smith scored 14 points in the second half and lead an early 10-0 fourth-quarter run that slashed the Dream’s lead to three. Atlanta quickly responded with a 7-0 run and effectively iced the game with a Montgomery three that made it 80-69 with 3:48 left.
“We were calm when they cut it to three,” said Dream head coach Nicki Collen. “This team has no fear.”
Despite the five-game win streak, the race for top seeding in the East remains tight. The Dream is in first place at 21-11, but the Washington Mystics, who stunned the Dream at home earlier this month, have their own five-game streak and are 19-11. With a back to back this Sunday on the road against the Liberty, Coach Collen in banking Brittney Sykes (8 points) excelling in her new starter role.
“She’s starting to get used to it,”Collen said. “She’s used to being the bench sparkplug. She’ll have to play a lot against New York. You can’t take a night off with the standings so close.”
Photos By | Joshua Sowemimo