The stretch run of the WNBA season got off in rocky fashion for the Atlanta Dream with a 90-82 loss to the Chicago Sky. Elena Delle Donne scored a game-high 34 points and was too much down the stretch for Atlanta who overcame a big deficit, only to fall short.
“These teams are good, and we just have to come bring it,” associate head coach Karleen Thompson said after the game. “We have to stay focused; this is one game down. We will continue to do what we need to do to keep ourselves in the playoffs, and go from there.”
Atlanta jumped out to a seven point advantage in the third quarter and for a moment appeared ready to blow the game wide open. Chicago came right back with a 15-0 run to regain the advantage. The Dream closed the gap again in the fourth cutting the deficit to just one point with just over four minutes remaining but four straight points from Delle Donne ended the run that comeback attempt.
“Basketball is a game of runs, so at some point you are going to be behind or be up,” said Thompson. “They came from behind. It was a dogfight, you have to sustain it and stay focused. They played a better game tonight and came out with the win.”
Atlanta got to the free throw line 31 times in the game but that was offset by turnovers and second chance points. The Dream turned the ball over just 12 times but Chicago capitalized by turning those into 23 points. The Sky finished the game with a 43-28 rebounding advantage including an 18-6 edge on the offensive end. Chicago turned those 18 offensive rebounds into 27 points.
“The Sky is a very good team,” Thompson added. “They have very good players. They have weapons all over the court, as we do. So it’s going to be a dogfight every time. We can’t turn the ball over as much as we did, and give up that many points. They killed us on the offensive glass. We have to do a better job boxing out, and just sustaining the run and playing our defense. Play as hard as we can and see what the outcome is.”
The loss drops Atlanta to 13-13 on the season and out of the Top 4 in the WNBA standings. That is significant because under the league’s new playoff format, the top two teams earn byes all the way to semi finals while the third and fourth place finishers get byes in the first round. The Dream have a half game lead over the Sky and a 1.5 game advantage over the Phoenix Mercury.
“We have been there before,” said Thompson. “We are going to be there again. We have a young group that is still growing. Like I said before, Chicago is a good team. We just keep them focused and continue to do what we have to do to put them in the best position to win games.”
Atlanta returns home to face Connecticut on Sunday.