No one could have predicted this. Coming into the season, the Atlanta Dream looked like one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference maybe even in the entire WNBA. After losing a close series in the WNBA Finals last season, Atlanta returned the same core of players and even added All-Star guard Lindsey Harding to the mix with a draft day trade. On paper, this team appears to be better than last season's squad.
The season however has been a stark reminder that these things aren't played out on paper. Injuries and player absences have been a huge part of Atlanta's struggles early on. They have failed to recapture that chemistry that made them one of the league's top teams last season. Now they are still searching to get those things back.
"I hope we can get back on the winning track," coach Marynell Meadors said. "We struggled, we didn’t play well at all (Wednesday) and we didn’t defend well. Those are the things we have to have. We have to come out with more intensity and more effort."
Offensive struggles aside, a lot of Atlanta's problems can be linked to the defensive end of the floor. Entering today's game the Dream are surrendering 84.5 points per game while allowing their opponents to shoot 44 percent from the field. Contrast that with today's opponent the Chicago Sky who are tops in the league in opponents field goal percentage allowing just 40 percent.
So much of Atlanta's offensive attack is predicated on their defense and their rebounding. Sancho Lyttle's absence has played a big part as it has forced players like Alison Bales out of her customary role of coming off the bench and moved her into the starting lineup. That move has nullified a lot of the Dream's athleticism on the defensive end of the floor and has created a huge burden on Erika de Souza both offensively and defensively.
Atlanta returns to action tonight coming off of two straight road losses to the Sky and the New York Liberty. Interestingly enough those same two teams are the only ones that the Dream have defeated this season. Atlanta is playing its eighth home game of the season tonight and with the All-Star break fast approaching, is leaving itself precious little wiggle room in hopes of making the playoffs.
Slowing down Chicago center Sylvia Fowles will be priority No. 1 for the Dream tonight as she is averaging a league best 20.4 points per game to go along with 9.8 rebounds and 2.2 blocks. Atlanta also can't forget about guard Epiphanny Prince who is averaging 16.6 points on the season but scored 24 points in the last meeting against the Dream.
To turn the ship around, Atlanta is going to have to get back to the basics and just play solid team basketball. Too often this season their offense and defense has broken down repeatedly into one on one situations. At 3-9 the expectations are gone. They just need to focus back on what is important to try and build some momentum heading into the All-Star break.
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