The Atlanta Dream recently joined an elite group of WNBA franchises, becoming just the 11th team in league history to win nine of its first 10 games after defeating the Washington Mystics 86-75 in Philips Arena.
The game was part of a four-game home stand that began June 25. Atlanta has won seven straight games against Washington to take a 12-10 lead in the all-time series.
Two days later, against the visiting San Antonio Silver Stars, the Dream improved to 10-1 on the season by registering a decisive 93-67 win, continuing its best start in franchise history, and closing out the month of June by becoming just the sixth all-time team in the WNBA to win at least 10 of its first 11 games. And all while holding at No.1 in the Eastern Conference with a decisive three-game lead over the second-place Chicago Sky.
Atlanta also improved to 7-0 at home this season and has now won 12 straight regular-season games at Philips Arena. The 26-point margin of victory against the Silver Stars was the largest of the season for the Dream.
“We have a nice mix of veterans and rookies and it’s just all about staying in the moment and understanding that what we have here is special and you can’t let down,” said Dream forward Le’Coe Willingham following the win.
And a nice mix, indeed.
Second-year reserve guard Tiffany Hayes’ 19-point performance, coupled with rookie Alex Bentley’s career-high 17, as well as 15 apiece from veteran Angel McCoughtry and Jasmine Thomas, led the charge as six Dream players finished in double figures.
And impressively, Atlanta’s continued success has recently been without the contributions of the team’s second leading scorer Sancho Lyttle, who is away playing for the Spanish National Team at EuroBasketball 2013.
“I think the team is staying together well without Sancho being here,” center Ericka DeSouza said after the win.
DeSouza was instrumental in dominating the post position both offensively and defensively, finishing the game with 10 points, seven rebounds, three blocked shots and two steals. Atlanta had a significant edge down low, holding an impressive 52-16 margin on points scored in the paint.
Overall, the Dream shot 56.3 percent from the field while holding San Antonio to 38.5 percent. Atlanta has held seven of its 11 opponents below 40 percent shooting so far this season.
Team play was the key, with the Dream racking up a season-high 25 assists. They topped their previous tally of 20 against Washington. Atlanta also had 12 steals.
Armintie Herrington and Aneika Henry also finished with 10 and 12 points respectively for the Dream.
The Dream opened the game on an 8-1 run and never trailed despite allowing the Silver Stars to cut a 15-point first-half deficit to five at the 3:17 mark in the second quarter.
Atlanta led 24-14 after the first period, and following a Willingham layup with 6:41 showing on the clock in the second, took its biggest lead of the first half, 33-16. But soon, San Antonio put together a string of defensive stops and rallied to pull to within nine, 49-40, going into halftime.
That rally, however, was short-lived particularly because the Silver Stars (7-3) were without 14-year veteran forward Delisha Milton-Jones and guard Shenise Johnson. San Antonio was clearly outmanned from that point forward. Dressing just eight players for the road game, the 93 points allowed was the most given up by the Silver Stars this season.
“It’s kind of tough because we’re not 100 percent. We don’t have everyone that we usually have, so we have to try to find the right chemistry. It was a little rough at the beginning, but we have what we needed,” explained Silver Stars guard Davellyn Whyte.
Whyte finished with 13 points for San Antonio while teammate Jia Perkins scored a team-high 19.