By Sydney Gibbs
The WNBA came to a halt as six games in the past two days were postponed in response to Wisconsin police shooting an unarmed black man – Jacob Blake – seven times in the back. In their first game back since the hiatus, the Atlanta Dream dropped to 3-12 on the season after losing 88-79 to the Minnesota Lynx (10-4) on Friday night.
The two teams were tied after the first frame, but Minnesota managed to surge ahead for a 11-0 run early in the second quarter. The Lynx extended that run to 17-2 with 4:58 left before halftime. Atlanta struggled off the glass and couldn’t consistently make shots, trailing 43-51 at the break.
The struggles in the first half carried over into the second as the Dream struggled to make shots. Blake Dietrick launched a shot from beyond the arc to score and close the gap to 67-73 with six minutes left in the fourth quarter. Minnesota’s Napheesa Collier crunch-time effectiveness at the free throw line late gave the Lynx an upper hand to secure their 10th win of the season.
“Quite frankly if you look at why we lost the basketball game, we didn’t put the ball in the basketball from two feet,” said head coach Nicki Collen. “When you look at our posts, they were 8-for-25 and most of those were inside of five feet. So we just struggled to score at the rim.”
Despite the lack of consistency on offense, five Dream players finished scoring in double digits, with Betnijah Laney leading the team with 22 points with five assists and four rebounds. Courtney Williams finished with 17 points on 8-of-14 shooting. Elizabeth Williams had her second double-double of the season, scoring 12 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. Monique Billings and Blake Dietrick contributed in the scoring column with 12 and 11, respectively.
Players of the WNBA, as well as athletes from other leagues, made their voices heard loud and clear as they refused to play their regularly scheduled games on Wednesday and Thursday. The historic strike gave players the power to ignite a much needed conversation on what has been happening the past few days. They made it known that there are some things that are much bigger than basketball.
“The past couple of days have been really heavy,” said Laney. “I think we needed that break that we had to really reflect on everything that’s been going on. At the same time this is our release from that but not entirely because we’re able to go out there and have [Black Lives Matter] on our shirts, on the big screen, and have it on the court.”
Even though basketball is back, the advocacy and the fight for social justice will not stop. These players are committed to change and they will not stop saying their names until justice is served. As the Atlanta Dream players resume the rest of the 2020 season, they will not let these issues go unnoticed.
“We have a platform. It might not be as big as the NBA’s, but we certainly have one and I think we need to use it,” said Dietrick. “I think my job is to elevate the voices of Black and brown women in this league for the most part. Listen and learn and do my best to just understand and support my teammates anyway that I can.”
The Dream return to the court Sunday night as they face the Los Angeles Sparks at 8:00 p.m. ET on Fox Sports Southeast and Facebook.