At 4-1, the Dream are off to their second-best start in franchise history.
They’ve reached that mark with perimeter players who like to wreak havoc on opposing offenses to force turnovers for easy transition baskets. The team thrives on deflections, steals and driving the lane for layups.
But the Dream are coming off a tough loss Sunday at the New York Liberty, when they failed to score 70 points for the first time this season.
The Dream average a shade under 80 points and a league-high 13 steals per game. But as opponents gel throughout the season and cut down on turnovers, the Dream may have to rely on other facets of their game. Guard Jasmine Thomas believes the Dream can continue to exert their will on teams.
“When that’s something you’re good at and that you take pride in, you hope that for the longevity of the season you’re able to disrupt teams and take them out of what they do,” Thomas said. “Yes, we like to be in passing lanes, but we also like to contain teams. So if we have to play 24 seconds of defense, we want to be able to do that and rebound. It’s just making teams work for everything.”
The Dream has struggled in the half-court offense. The team goes scoreless in spurts, which allows opponents to hang around. Thomas said it comes down to simply executing the offense.
“A lot of times we get caught up in the running game, and when we do need to slow down, we don’t make the best decisions yet,” Thomas said. “But it’s early in the season, and we’re still learning how to play off of each other.”
The team’s biggest weakness has been 3-point shooting. The Dream shoots 25 percent in that category, which ranks second worst in the WNBA.
Guard Armintie Herrington believes 3-point shooting won’t continue to be a problem, saying it has “never been an issue” for the team and that it wasn’t an issue when the Dream made back-to-back trips to the finals. Herrington noted that perimeter shooting hasn’t hurt the team thus far.
“People just want something to talk about, if you ask me,” Herrington said. “We’re shooting 3-point shots as they come. … We know what our style of play is, and when we get an open look at a 3, we have the green light to take it.”
But Thomas hinted at a bigger issue regarding the team’s struggles from beyond the arc.
“It’s mainly just confidence,” Thomas said. “We have a lot of very capable shooters. So just being confident and taking a shot, not overpassing. We pass up a lot of shots that take us out of our rhythm. We pass up easy shots for defended, off-balance shots.”
As the team tries to get back on track, it will have to do it without forward Sancho Lyttle, who will miss the next six games to compete for Spain’s national team at EuroBasket Women 2013.
“She’s a near triple-double for us,” Dream coach Fred Williams said. “Rebounding, for one, and her defense, being one of the steal leaders in the league. My offensive schemes will be a little different without her getting those touches and hitting mid-range shots.”
Lyttle has averaged 15.4 points, 9.0 rebounds, 2.8 steals, 2.6 assists and 1.6 blocks per game.
Williams said Angel McCoughtry will see time at power forward, and the team may go small at times with guard Tiffany Hayes. Williams noted that Lyttle’s absence creates more opportunities for veteran Le’Coe Willingham and said rookie Anne Marie Armstrong will see a few minutes of playing time.
The Dream will face Seattle on Friday, with the tipoff scheduled for 7:30 p.m. The Dream will also welcome the Chicago Sky and rookie sensation Elena Delle Donne to Philips Arena on Sunday, with a 3 p.m. tipoff.