There’s no place like home. That was the famous quote from the movie, “The Wizard of Oz”. Dorothy only needed to repeat that phrase and click her heels three times to return home. Home was where her family and friends where. It was her safe haven of peace and love. The same is true in sports. Home is where your family, friends, and fans are. It’s a safe haven to play your best. That is actually why the Atlanta Dream were excited to be home after starting the season on the road.
This year is a different one for the Dream. They have a new head coach in Nicki Collen, from the Connecticut Suns. Also, Angel McCoughtry is back from taking last season off. She did play overseas this year, but took a mental and physical break from the WNBA. The goal this year was to get the Dream back in the playoffs. They finished 12-22 last season. It was their worse record since their inaugural season in 2008 when they were 4-30. Collen’s first objective is to get the Dream back into the playoffs. In the team’s history they have only missed the playoffs twice (2015, 2017) outside of their first year. The best way of doing that is by pushing the tempo (did Chris Brown’s song pop up in your head too) and playing great defense. Collen said, “I want to be the best defensive team in the league, and I want to play the fastest. Defensively, I’m not going to measure that by points per game. Because if we’re driving up possessions, that’s not a good measurement. It’s field goal percentage defense, it’s turnover margin, and things like that.”
One way to ensure that you meet those two needs is getting Renee Montgomery and Jessica Breland in free agency. Montgomery is a two-time champion for the Minnesota Lynx and played last season with the Suns. Breland played for the Suns in 2011 and recently played three years with the Chicago Sky. Couple that with last season’s All-Stars of Tiffany Hayes and Layshia Clarendon, you have a team that goes nine deep. It’s also a good problem to figure out how to get more minutes for Rookie of the Year nominee, Brittney Sykes. The season is a hopeful one for the Dream. They would need time to gel and get to know one another on and off the court. However, the potential to make the playoffs and do some damage in it is all there.
The first two games of the season were on the road at Dallas and Chicago. You could tell that the familiarity was clearly not there in the opener. The Dallas Wings won easily, 101-78. It looked like another exhibition game for the Dream. The second game was a great bounce back one (now I’m hearing Big Sean’s song). With only 34 games, you don’t want to start the season 0-2. It was great to get an 81-63 win over the Chicago Sky to prove that you can learn from the mistakes of game one.
May 26th was the much anticipated home opener. You have your family, friends, and the city of Atlanta behind you for this game. It was a rematch of game one, so some revenge is also at stake. It definitely wasn’t a blowout loss but it was a slight let down. The Wings won a close game, 78-70. The Dream got the lead down to two points late in the third quarter, thanks to a 9-2 run. Unfortunately, Skylar Diggins-Smith dropped 12 of 26 points in the fourth quarter to help the Wings win. It was a well-attended home opener. Bonecrusher and Sir Foster, organist for the Atlanta Hawks, performed during halftime. They have a song together that is the official intro for the Dream. Dikembe Mutombo and T.I were also in attendance.
May 29th was the match up with the defending champs, the Lynx. Talk about a tough home stretch. You just played Skylar, now you have Maya Moore. It was one of the games similar to the previous one, to where the Dream just kept hanging around. They would trim the lead down to one possession then the Lynx would go up. This time the outcome would be different. Down by one with 16 seconds on the clock, the Dream worked the ball around and found a wide open McCoughtry in the corner for three. Splash! She made a game-winning 3-pointer with 1.5 seconds left to give them a 76-74 victory. It was a big time 13-4 run to close the game out, snapping a nine-game losing streak to the Lynx.
June 3rd was the match up with the Phoenix Mercury. It was the legend Diana Taurasi and taller than taller, Brittney Griner. After such an emotional win previously, the Dream took too long to get started in this one. It was an uphill fight all game. They did manage to get the lead down to 57-58 early in the fourth. That’s when Taurasi took over and led her team to a 78-71 victory. The defense was getting better each game, they just needed some shots to fall on offense.
June 5th was the end of the four-game home stand. The undefeated Suns came into town. Every player and coach always down plays going against their previous team. But every one of them wants to win at all cost. The new Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce was in attendance along with John Collins, Tyler Dorsey, and Kent Bazemore. The Dream used that motivation to give the Suns their first loss of the season 82-77. Hayes scored 22 points and got 15 points from Damiris Dantas. It was great to see the Dream make four straight free throws to put the game away.
The Dream went 2-2 at home. They played exceptional defense and learned how to bounce back from tough losses against the elite teams in the league. With more practice and playing time, this team will be in the playoffs. Let’s just hope those games will be at home, because there is no place like it.