The Atlanta Dream take on the Washington Mystics, as the WNBA Semifinals begin Sunday afternoon at McCamish Pavilion.
WNBA Coach of The Year Nicki Collen has her Dream playing at a high level. Atlanta has won 15 out of 17 games to finish the season to catapult themselves to the top of the Eastern Conference. Despite the loss of Angel McCoughtry, the team has looked sharp behind veterans Tiffany Hayes and Renee Montgomery. Atlanta’s defense can be overwhelming at times, forcing teams into tough shots and shot clock violations.
The Washington Mystics are coming off a great playoff win over the Los Angeles Sparks. Washington is the first team ever to have all five starters score double digit points and shoot better than 50% from the floor in a WNBA playoff game. Leading scorer Elena Delle Donne finished with 19 points and 12 rebounds. Washington’s defense looks to continue its good defense after holding L.A. to only 34.3% shooting from the field.
Mystics guard Ariel Atkins will have her hands full with the Dream’s Tiffany Hayes. Atkins is the Mystics third leading scorer and is ninth in the WNBA averaging 1.3 steals per contest. Hayes leads the dream in scoring averaging 17.2 points per game. She has an ability to get to the free throw line even when she’s not hitting shots. Atkins will need to keep her on the perimeter and stop the penetration drives that lead to easy points or passes to wide open teammates.
The X-Factor for this game is Atlanta Dream guard Brittney Sykes. Sykes finished third in the Sixth Women Of The Year race but has recently been thrust into a starting role. Her spark plug like attitude and penetration skills seem to rub off on her teammates. The Dream will be tough to defend when they deploy their quick lineup featuring Sykes and Hayes on the court together.
Atlanta will win the series 2-1. They have found their ways to score the basketball, averaging 91.1 in their last right contests.