It could be said that both the Atlanta Dream and the Seattle Storm fell a bit short of expectations to start their 2011 campaign after facing each other in the 2010 WNBA Finals.
The Storm (12-8) were just trying to stay above .500 entering the All-Star break and the Dream (8-11) are just trying to stay close enough to fifth place to remain in playoff contention in the Eastern Conference. Yet both teams also appeared to hit their stride just before the All-Star break, although the Dream continue to be beset with challenges.
Dream All-Star Angel McCoughtry missed the pre-season and essentially first two games of the season - she only played three minutes in the Dream's second game - due to injury as the Dream limped out to a 1-5 start. McCoughtry didn't start until the third game of the season and since that early season rough patch, the Dream are 7-4 with McCoughtry in the starting lineup. The 6-foot-1 small forward averaged 25.1 points in the month of July, which led the league in that time and earned her the honor of Eastern Conference Player of the Month. McCoughtry did not start the last two games due to what Dream coach Marynell Meadors is calling a "coach's decision" and, perhaps unsurprisingly, the Dream have lost two in a row.
But in another similarity to the Storm, Dream point guard Lindsey Harding has had a disappointing season after demanding a trade to Atlanta from the Washington Mystics this off-season and that could be considered a large part of why the Dream have struggled. In those same seven wins that McCoughtry has started, Harding has shot 52 percent from the field and a scorching 57.1 percent from the three point line. And she has been much better at home than on the road this season, scoring 13.9 points per game and recording 4.7 assists.
Largely due to a commitment to the Spanish National Team, 2010 All-Star and All-Defensive team honoree Sancho Lyttle has also only played seven games this season. Lyttle missed more games after returning from Europe with a back injury and has since only played three games as a reserve averaging only 5.7 points and 4.3 rebounds.
Yet with all the inconsistency the Dream have gotten from their stars, the Dream have found consistency among their reserves. Both guard Coco Miller and wing Armintie Price are among the WNBA's most improved players this season, although neither has improved quite as much as Storm center Ashley Robinson.
In other words, the Dream's record might be deceiving - they have the pieces to win games, but with so much in flux haven't yet been able to gel. Losing reserve point guard Shalee Lehning - even in a down season - to a season-ending ACL injury doesn't help either.
They need a win at home right now and a lapse on the road after an exhilarating finish at home could easily result in a Storm loss.