By Sydney Gibbs
This wild and unconventional WNBA season comes to a close for the Atlanta Dream as they fell short to the Washington Mystics, 85-78, on Sunday evening. The game was rescheduled from August 26 after the league took a 48-hour break to protest the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
The Dream came out of the gate fighting and took an early seven point lead. But everything switched directions as the Mystics took off for a 13-2 run in the final three minutes of the first period.
Washington led by five going into the second quarter but struggled to keep growing it as they went scoreless for four minutes allowing the Dream to take an advantage. Atlanta took an eight point lead halfway through the second period on an electric three-point jumper by Shekinna Stricklen. The Mystics fought their way back once again and took a slight 44-43 edge going into halftime.
For a majority of the third and fourth quarter, Washington had to hold on tight to their lead because Atlanta was not going away. But every time the Dream made a push, the Mystics answered right back.
Two made free throws by Atlanta forward Betnijah Laney put the Dream in a great position to make a run and steal the lead. They trailed 73-71, with a little over four minutes remaining in the game. In Atlanta’s last minute efforts to make a comeback, Washington’s Myisha Hines-Allen and Ariel Atkins were just too much to handle and made clutch shots in the right moments.
The Dream could not finish on a high note and missed an opportunity to spoil playoff hopes for the Mystics.
Laney led all scorers with 27 points on 11-of-16 shooting, and six rebounds. Carter ended her stellar rookie season with 26 points and five rebounds – adding to her Rookie of the Year campaign.
The Dream has been through it’s fair share of ups and downs, probably more than any other team. This team has battled through early injuries and late arrivals. Players and coaches had to navigate how to develop team chemistry in such a short amount of time – with everyone but two players being new.
They struggled to adapt to this complex situation but fiercely fought down the stretch to prove that they’re a really good team. It was an adverse task of trying to adjust to the stressful 22-game schedule and solve the problems that were happening internally. For head coach Nicki Collen, it was difficult from the start.
“I just think the odds were stacked against this team,” said an emotional Collen. “They could’ve quit a long time ago. You don’t have two players opt out by choice coming into this. Then three players get Covid and show up late, and have your point guard, who’s got a Rookie of the Year campaign going, have an injury. It wasn’t easy.
“I think that we just got better. We certainly transferred the lessons we learned in one game and tried to get a little bit better the next. I’m just incredibly proud of this group and how they kept fighting. When their backs were against the wall, they kept getting better. They kept believing in one another. Would have liked to gone out with a win, one way or the other, but proud of how we came along.”
For all 22 games, the Atlanta Dream fought aggressively until the very end and despite being eliminated from playoff contention, there’s much to look forward to from this franchise.