Two games have resulted in drastically different outcomes for the Atlanta Dream, who look to get back on track Friday night against No. 1 overall pick Sabrina Ionescu and the winless New York Liberty.
The Dream (1-1) have run hot and cold in their first two contests, opening their season in the bubble with a 105-95 victory over Dallas in which they shot 54.8 percent. They had a far rougher go of it Wednesday, getting routed 100-70 by the Las Vegas Aces while shooting 40 percent as former Dream guard Angel McCoughtry scored 12 points.
"We didn't play well. It's as simple as that," said coach Nicki Collen, who made Glory Johnson a late scratch before tip-off. "I think we were dealt a blow before the game ever started and I'd like to say it didn't affect us but it probably did. Vegas came out and they did the things we knew they were going to do."
Elizabeth Williams scored 16 points and Blake Dietrick added 13 off the bench in extended minutes. Despite the up and down performances offensively, defense is a concern given the Dream have yielded 195 points in the first two games, though Collen appeared to be hopeful playing a rookie-laden Liberty team could help Atlanta find its own bearings defensively.
"New York is a young team trying to figure things out themselves, and hopefully by Friday we'll maybe have Glory (Johnson) and Courtney. So we'll have a little more depth and a little more playmaking ability, and that'll help."
Johnson, who tested positive for COVID-19, was cleared to play Wednesday by the league and team medical staff. Courtney Johnson, who did not play in either contest, was acquired in the offseason from the Connecticut Sun.
Ionescu showed clear signs of progress after a choppy professional debut, totaling 33 points, seven rebounds, and seven assists Wednesday night in a 93-80 loss to the Dallas Wings. Ionescu also made 6 of 10 from 3-point range for New York after missing all eight of her attempts from beyond the arc in a season-opening defeat to Seattle.
"It's going to be a process, piece by piece, we just have to keep building every single day, every single practice," Ionescu said. "We know it'll be a learning curve with highs and lows but we just have to stay the course, keep believing in each other, keep working hard and everything will take care of itself."
Like the Dream, the Liberty have struggled to gain traction defensively, giving up an average of 90 points. New York also has had some issues valuing the basketball, committing 37 turnovers in its two defeats.
New York won two of the three meetings last year, closing the season with a 71-63 victory at Atlanta.