Dream-Sun Preview

The Associated PressJune 22, 2013

The Atlanta Dream have continued to play solid on the defensive end without Sancho Lyttle.

The addition of veteran center Ruth Riley could make the WNBA's top team even stronger.

Riley is expected to make her Dream debut Sunday when the struggling Connecticut Sun try to prevent the Dream from their best eight-game start in franchise history.

The team's leading rebounder (9.0 per game) and second-leading scorer (15.4 points per game) behind Angel McCoughtry (19.4), Lyttle has missed the last two games while with the Spanish national team and is expected to miss four more.

Atlanta (6-1), though, has won both games in her absence, holding its opponents to 36.1 percent shooting with 35 total turnovers.

"Defense is our game. We take a lot of pride in it,'' point guard Jasmine Thomas said after the Dream used a 16-2 fourth-quarter run to pull away in last Sunday's 88-74 victory over Chicago.

The Dream, who also opened 6-1 three years ago, are among the WNBA leaders in scoring defense with 69.4 points per game and field-goal defense at 38.8 percent. They also have three of the league's steals leaders: Armintie Herrington (3.67 per game), McCoughtry (3.57) and Lyttle (2.8).

Tuesday's signing of Riley gives Atlanta another solid defender. The former All-Star and WNBA finals MVP is averaging 6.5 points, 4.3 rebounds and 1.4 blocks in 12 seasons.

Riley played with Chicago last season.

"She's a post player that has the ability to shoot from the outside, is a strong rebounder and can alter shots," coach Fred Williams told the Dream's official website.

The Sun (2-5) are hoping 6-foot 4 Kayla Pedersen can add some production down low after acquiring her from Tulsa on Thursday for a second-round pick in the 2014 draft. Pedersen, the seventh overall pick in 2011, has averaged 5.4 points and 4.0 rebounds in 69 career games.

"Kayla is a young player with good size and a promising upside who will certainly fill a need on our roster, adding much-needed height to our lineup," coach Anne Donovan told the Sun's official website.

The Sun could use some scoring from Pedersen, as they're ranked among the WNBA's worst, averaging 71.3 points on 39.3 percent shooting.

That inconsistency has made it difficult for Connecticut to put together solid 40-minute efforts. After getting outscored 32-22 in the third quarter of a 78-68 loss to New York on June 14, the Sun's deficit grew from seven to 13 in the opening 5:44 of the second half in last Sunday's 78-66 loss to Seattle.

"Coach (Donovan) gave us a great motivational speech coming out in the beginning and after halftime, but we came out flat," said center Tina Charles, the team leader with 18.6 points per game and 10.0 rebounds. "Things weren't going our way. It's just really frustrating.''

Perhaps a visit by the Dream can help as the Sun continue their four-game homestand. Connecticut has won the last four regular-season games with the Dream in town, including both last season by a combined 39 points.