Watching late leads slip away is becoming a familiar trend for the Atlanta Dream. They turned the trick again on Saturday in a 95-87 loss to the Phoenix Mercury to extend their losing streak to six straight.
Atlanta held a nine-point lead early in the fourth quarter but were outscored 23-6 over the final seven minutes of the game. The Mercury outscored the Dream 30-17 in the fourth with Atlanta shooting just 33 percent in the quarter.
"What you have to do is stay positive,” Dream head coach Michael Cooper said following the game. “I think now is not the time to get negative because, again, we are still in the playoff hunt. We have to a little more detailed about our offense, more disciplined about our defense, and all of us have to do the little things that are required for us to find success: boxing out and getting to the line. We won’t go all the way back to the drawing board, but we’ll look at some tape, make our adjustments here and there…I’m not going to be as bold as Pat Riley but I think we’re going to win this next game."
Cooper is taking the positive approach with his team and that is probably a good idea but the Dream have to be concerned. Their 6-1 start to the season is firmly in the rearview mirror and they are not getting any better at managing fourth quarter leads.
Atlanta is now 8-9 overall and has dropped to third in the Eastern Conference. With the WNBA’s new playoff format which seeds the top teams regardless of conference affiliation they are fifth and fading fast with a number of teams closing in.
Tiffany Hayes led the way for Atlanta with 26 points while Angel McCoughtry added 22. The duo combined for 15 of the Dream’s 17 points in the fourth quarter. Elizabeth Williams had another nice game statistically with 13 points and nine rebounds.
Brittney Griner did most of the heavy lifting for the Mercury becoming just the sixth player in league history to record a triple-double with 27 points, 10 rebounds and 10 blocked shots. Candice Dupree added 19 points while Diana Taurasi chipped in 17 points and a game-high eight assists.
The Dream will try to pick up the pieces again on Tuesday when they host the Seattle Storm at Philips Arena. Atlanta dropped an 84-81 decision in Seattle during last week’s road trip.