Dream looking to bounce back against Aces

In coach Nicki Collen’s view, the Dream didn’t play good basketball for about a 36 hour stretch. On Friday, Atlanta lost to the Seattle Storm by 16 points at home. Less than 24 hours later, the Dream lost at the Washington Mystics by 21.

It’s no secret that those two games didn’t go how Atlanta wanted them to, but the Dream is just three games into its season. There’s a lot of time left to settle in and fix the mistakes.

With 31 regular season games left, Collen doesn’t want to put too much emphasis on the Dream’s two previous losses.

“You just can’t, in this league, or quite frankly in sports in general, you can’t put too much on a bad 36 hours,” Collen said. “When you think about it, we tipped off on Friday at 7:30 and then tipped off at 7 on Saturday night. We didn’t play good basketball in those two games, but it’s a short time frame. As much as our season is short, it’s still long.”

And with plenty of games left to play, Collen spent some of practice on Tuesday going back to basics and working on fundamentals.

“We don’t want the ball to stick, so we started with simple passing drills and moving the ball with our outside hand,” Collen said. “(We worked on) the idea of reading two on ones, because it’s so important in this league, and then we broke down the basics of ball screen defense and pin downs, which we’re gonna face regardless of our opponent.

“We did go back to the basics, but I think it all translates not just to us being good every day, but us being good against Vegas as well.”

The Las Vegas Aces come to town on Thursday night having lost their previous two games by a combined eight points. With players like Liz Cambage, the leading scorer in the WNBA last year, the Aces will bring a challenge for Collen and Atlanta.

But Collen hopes that the Dream’s work on fundamentals this week will both bring the team success on Thursday night and set the foundation for the rest of the season. Defense is well-known to be an emphasis of Collen’s, and the Dream’s defense has struggled in the early part of the 2019 campaign.

Without Angel McCoughtry, a five-time All-Defensive first team selection, cleaning things up on defense is even more important for Collen and her team.

“I think it’s just defensively,” said rookie guard Maite Cazorla. “(There) hasn’t been much of a problem offensively. We just have to make shots. I think defensively, we need to stay together and do the fundamental things.”

The Dream spent quite a bit of Tuesday’s practice working on defense, and Collen liked what she saw. Tiffany Hayes, Monique Billings and Alex Bentley all sat out to get extra rest and recover from nagging injuries, but Collen was pleased with the effort from the eight players that were full participants.

“I thought the energy and effort level was good,” Collen said. “We obviously were down multiple bodies. … That’s always the toughest part, but I thought we got a lot done today.”

Both the Dream and the Aces will be looking to get back on track after recent losses on Thursday night at State Farm Arena. With a few days after the loss to the Mystics to rest and prepare for the next game, the Dream hope their focus on fundamentals will bring success on Thursday.