By Bailey Johnson
When Renee Montgomery got fouled shooting a 3-pointer, it looked like it was going to be a turning point for the Dream.
For a few minutes, it was.
The Lynx held a 36-34 lead before the foul, which became a one-point deficit after Montgomery calmly sank all three free throws. The Dream battled to keep the game tied at halftime, and a 9-0 run early in the third quarter gave Atlanta a lead that was as many as 11 points.
But, perhaps inevitably, the wheels fell off down the stretch and the Lynx went on to win, 85-69.
“Different game, same story,” said coach Nicki Collen after the loss. “Just, the wheels just fell off, ultimately. The game came down to — we got an 11-point lead and it got ugly there for a while and we couldn’t stop the bleeding.”
There wasn’t any one glaring error or statistical category where the Dream fell dramatically short of Minnesota. Atlanta got outrebounded by 9, but that alone doesn’t tell the story. Both teams made the same number of 3-pointers and free throws, and both teams shot below 40% from the field.
Instead, it was death by a thousand cuts — or a thousand missed shots. The Dream missed 19 3-pointers, and many of those were wide open, unguarded shots. The ball just missed the mark.
The Lynx didn’t shoot particularly well, either, so the Dream were able to keep things competitive for a while. In the half court, Atlanta’s defense was as good as it’s been all season — but Minnesota got going in transition and almost always executed on the simple layups when they were available. In the end, that was the difference.
“You can compete for a long time shooting 33% because our half-court defense was really good,” Collen said. “But when they have numbers in transition, when they’re getting offensive rebounds, it still comes down to so many of their points — 21 points on second-chance points. 21 points at the foul line and 25 points off turnovers.”
The Dream turned the ball over 18 times, and the Lynx scored 25 points off those turnovers. Atlanta scored just 10 points off the Lynx’s 10 turnovers. As cliché as it is, you can’t score if you don’t have the ball. And if the other team is capitalizing on all of your mistakes, it makes battling back even harder.
As the clock ticked down, the Dream turned the ball over on six of thirteen possessions. The Lynx went on an 18-5 run over the last five minutes, and that put the final nail in the coffin for Atlanta.
“We had of five of seven possessions where we turned the basketball over and turned the basketball over six of the last 13 times,” Collen said. “I thought, once again, scheme-wise we were in a good situation. I thought we guarded them hard, but we didn’t take care of the basketball. We didn’t value the basketball. We didn’t make enough shots.”