Defense, Hayes keep the Dream alive at 6-5

By Katie Morrison

After falling to the Indiana Fever on Saturday, the Atlanta Dream, now a third of the way through the 2018 season, are currently 6-5. The winning record comes from combination of big wins early, a strong performance defensively, and the commanding presence of Tiffany Hayes.

Hayes is confident that the team will continue to improve its record as the season progresses. “I feel good, but I thought we would have a little bit better record. We’ve let a couple games slip away, and we’ve got a couple injuries,” explained Hayes.  “But don’t worry, because we’ll be back soon and we will not let any more games slip away.”

Despite being a new team still learning each other under first-year head coach Nicki Collen, Atlanta was able to start the 2018 season on the right track by claiming big wins early on. The Dream defeated the defending WNBA champion Minnesota Lynx 76-74 on May 29, and handed the Connecticut Sun their first loss of the season after an 82-77 victory at McCamish Pavilion on June 5.

Atlanta’s success this season comes largely from its deadly defensive performance. The Dream is allowing an average 77.5 points per game, holding opponents to 40.8 percent from the floor, and forcing 16 turnovers per game – all of which rank second in the league.

Additionally, the Dream would not be where it is today if it wasn’t for guard Tiffany Hayes, who has made her presence known on both sides of the ball. Hayes ranks ninth in the league overall in scoring, averaging 17.9 points. She also is grabbing 3.4 rebounds, and dishing out 2.5 assists per game. Hayes is currently shooting 43.1 percent overall from the field, and has had six 20-plus scoring efforts this season.

On June 11, Hayes was named the WNBA’s Eastern Conference Player of the Week, for games played June 4-10. That week, she scored 22 points, seven rebounds, four assists, and three steals to aid Atlanta in its victory over the Sun. Hayes then contributed 24 points, three rebounds, and four assists in the Dream’s 87-83 road win over the Las Vegas Aces. She ended the week with 23 points, two rebounds, and two assists to carry Atlanta to a 67-64 win against the Seattle Storm, who entered the matchup with the best record in the Western Conference.

This Tuesday, June 19, Atlanta will close out a two-game road series as they take on the New York Liberty at 7 pm ET. On Friday, the Dream return home to face the Eastern-Conference leading Connecticut Sun at 7 pm ET. As the team prepares for Friday’s matchup, Renee Montgomery says its all about “rest and recovery.”

According to Montgomery, “At this point in the season, it’s hard to get a lot of scouting in, and it’s hard to get a lot of anything in. We did just have a pretty good practice today, but it’s hard to get a lot in. So basically you just have to be focused when you come into the game about sets that everyone runs and just legs. Once it gets to a point in the season where we’re traveling a lot you come back and you play a high-octane offense, it’s really about recovery.”

The Dream will then take on the Chicago Sky, Minnesota Lynx, and Indiana Fever in a tough Midwest road trip before returning home on Friday, July 6, to face the Seattle Storm.