The Atlanta Dream captured their second win of the season with an 87-81 victory over the Chicago Sky Sunday afternoon at Philips Arena. The Dream clamped down defensively and got a good closing performance from Angel McCoughtry to secure the win.
“I thought it was a well-played game by both teams," Dream head coach Michael Cooper said after the game. "I know that they were missing a player, but it was nice to come home and take this home game. We were able to play well against a very good basketball team. I know we have done a lot of changes as far as player personnel goes, but I think they are starting to get their rhythm. It was a big win for us today.”
The Sky played without point guard Courtney Vandersloot who missed the game with a sprained ankle. Atlanta smothered Chicago defensively holding them to just 38 percent shooting while forcing 14 turnovers. Cappie Pondexter and Elena Delle Donne finished with 17 and 16 points respectively but were a combined 11 of 28 from the field.
Delle Donne attempted just one shot in the decisive third quarter despite being on the court for nearly nine minutes. She attempted just three shots in the second half thanks in large part to the defensive effort of McCoughtry.
"You know we see McCoughtry as more of an offensive threat but she is a good defensive player," Cooper said when asked about slowing Delle Donne. "I think the refs let her player her and get after her a little bit. Angel takes that match up very very seriously."
The Dream also did a much better job of taking care of the basketball on Sunday. Atlanta turned the ball over 22 times in Friday's loss at Indiana but finished with just seven turnovers in Sunday's win.
“I told them that I don’t want them to cut down their activity as far as in transition, but it was important for us to play a little bit slower," Cooper said about the adjustments they made to try and limit turnovers. "In Indiana we were just looking to do things too quick. When you do that you create turnovers. So on the board we kept our turnovers down but I still want us to be aggressive.”
That starts with the point guards and Atlanta got a solid effort from Layshia Clarendon and Carla Cortijo in Sunday's win. Clarendon started for the second straight game and finished with 15 points, a team-high eight rebounds and three assists. She turned the ball over just one time in 20 minutes on the floor.
Cortijo helped spark the Dream's third quarter run and finished with 12 points and a team-best five assists off the bench.
“You know I’m coming off injury on my foot but I feel great," Cortijo said after the game. "The idea I’m trying to bring to the team is to pump them up and get them this win. I know we could beat them. We just needed to take some offensive rebounds and you know we got the win at the end.”
The Dream improved to 2-1 on the season but with the new playoff format, Cooper reminded everyone how important these early games are.
“With the way the playoff structure is formatted, these early games are extremely important," Cooper said. "That is why I was kind of upset in Indiana. That game was one that we should have won I thought, but it’s the top teams and these are important games that could come and bite us in the end. So I definitely want to win at home and go at least .500 on the road. It was very important for us to get this one tonight after losing against Indiana in our last game.”
The Dream will play five of their first seven games away from Philips Arena. They head right back out on the road starting on Tuesday in New York and continuing Friday in Dallas. They are back home next Sunday for a rematch with the Fever before finishing up the stretch against Connecticut.