The #1 seed Atlanta Dream have stumbled out the gate with an 87-84 loss to the Washington Mystics in Game 1 of the WNBA semifinals.
The Mystics came out strong behind the outside shooting of Natasha Cloud (13 points, 3/5 from 3) and Ariel Atkins (15 points, 3/5 from 3). After the first quarter ended 26-all, the Mystics would outscore the Dream 25-16 in the second while shooting over 50%.
‘They came out incredibly hot hitting their first four 3s,” said Dream head coach Nicki Collen. “As the game went along you saw us assert our defensive presence.”
The Dream slowly crawled back in the second half by closing out on the perimeter players and exploiting fast-break opportunities. With the deficit as much as 17 in the third, the Dream rallied behind some inspired play from rookie Monique Billings, who had two and-one buckets in the final two mintues that ignited the crowd.
Despite the Mystics’ shooting percentage falling to 39% in the fourth, they got stops when it counted. The Dream had two chances to tie the game on three-pointers in the final 30-seconds. On the first play, the Mystics prevented Alex Bentley (19 points, 3/5 from 3) from getting the ball and forced Jessica Breland, who has not attempted a three-pointer all season, to take the shot. The Dream secured the miss, but only had .5 seconds left to make a play following a dead ball. The Mystics would tip the inbound pass to end the contest.
Once again, the Dream no answer for Elena Delle Donne, who had another career night with 32 points (10/10 FT) and 13 rebounds.
“We missed some box-outs on her, but we’ve actually made her inefficient in three of the four games,” said Collen. “She was still under 50% from the field. I thought (Jessica) Breland and even Monique Billings did a good job on her one-on-one. What we’ve got to do a better job of is keeping them away from the arc in Game 2.”
The Dream will also seek to correct their abysmal long-range shooting. Atlanta went just 6/21 (29%) while the Mystics were 11/26 (42%).
The Dream’s next chance to salvage home court in this best of five series will be Tuesday night (August 28) at the McCamish Pavilion.
Photos By | Joshua Sowemimo
Ismael AbduSalaam is an Atlanta-based writer specializing in music, sports and film journalism. He is the creator of the sports and entertainment site BeatsBoxingMayhem.com. He can be reached at @Ismael_BBM_NYK.