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Dream seeking statement win against Sky

Oct 17, 2021; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Chicago Sky guard Courtney Vandersloot (22) and Phoenix Mercury guard Shey Peddy (5) during the second half of game four of the 2021 WNBA Finals at Wintrust Arena. Mandatory Credit: Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

For the Chicago Sky, it’s simply another game on the journey to what they hope is a second straight WNBA title.

For the Atlanta Dream, it’s a potential statement game.

Much-improved over last year, Atlanta is off to a 6-3 start but hasn’t had a lot of success against elite opponents. Friday night’s home game with Chicago in College Park, Ga., gives the Dream a chance for an attention-grabbing win.

Coming off an 84-76 win at home Wednesday night against Minnesota, the Dream are just two wins shy of their 2021 total. The league’s second-worst team last year is clearly better across the board.

But they still have to prove they can beat the top teams. Only one win has come against a winning team, that in the season opener at Dallas (5-4). Atlanta’s three losses include a pair of 20-point blowouts against first-place teams Las Vegas and Washington.

However, the Dream are certainly playoff material at the moment, thanks largely to No. 1 overall pick Rhyne Howard. Her 16.9 point-per-game average in May was good enough for WNBA Rookie of the Month honors and she didn’t miss a beat when the calendar flipped, pumping home 22 against Minnesota.

“They got me for a reason,” Howard said. “I’m not surprised and I feel great. There’s no reason to be surprised.”

Meanwhile, Chicago (5-3) is coming off a come-from-behind 73-70 home win Tuesday night over Phoenix. The Sky trailed by eight points after three quarters before outscoring the Mercury 22-11 in the fourth quarter of their WNBA championship series rematch.

Courtney Vandersloot led Chicago with 18 points and six assists, converting a floater with 2:28 left in the game to put the Sky ahead for good at 69-68. The Sky also got 11 points from Kahleah Copper, as well as 10 each from Emma Meesseman and Rebekah Gardner.

“I spend a whole game trying to get people involved, figure out the coverages, figure out what’s working and what’s not,” Vandersloot told reporters. “When the fourth quarter comes around, I feel I got it figured out.”

Candace Parker leads five Chicago players in double figures with 12.8 points per game while also chipping 8.5 rebounds and 4.5 assists.

–Field Level Media