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WNBA Previews: Liberty-Dream, Mystics-Wings in Action Saturday

On Saturday night at 19:00 ET, both New York Liberty (7-8) and Atlanta Dream (5-8) will be aiming to avoid a three-game losing streak when they meet at the Gateway Center Arena.

Quite a bit has changed since these two groups got into a thriller by May, when Courtney Williams came on the match winner drilled. The Liberty was the toast in the league in May and had a four-game winning streak when the Dream arrived in Brooklyn. Atlanta’s win over New York was their fourth consecutive series.

The Dream, however, lost Chennedy Carter that day to an elbow injury. Her absence dampened Atlanta’s momentum, with the Dream going 1-6 with Carter out of the series. She returned Wednesday night when the Dream drop another match to the Minnesota Lynx, but Atlanta was without Tiffany Hayes, who suffered MCL injury in the previous game and is expected to miss significant time.

The loss of New York against Atlanta started a three-game slide. In their last five games, they are 2-3. Sabrina Ionescu was absent or restricted for most of these games. The Dream organized their defense to stop Ionescu and play successfully for her points and play. Since then, she has not scored double figures, with a noticeable drop in her aggressive score.

Both teams need to rediscover their early season groove. How can they do that?

Although Atlanta will miss Hayes’ isolation attack, Carter can also provide continuous downhills, which should be fruitful against New York’s poor paint defense. Carter scored 9.7 points in the paint per game, the highest point among all guards. The Liberty allows a league-worst score of 39.5 points per game in the paint. Even if Carter fails to turn on the ride, Elizabeth Williams and Monique Billings (if healthy) will be there to tidy things up. Driven by the pair, Atlanta leads the league with 10.7 attacking boards per game.

In defense, the Dream Hayes will feel absent as she is the best match for Betnijah Laney. While Atlanta focused their defensive energy and attention on Ionescu in their first game, the Dream should give preference to Laney. As New Yorkers suffer from a team-wide three-point shooting collapse, they are more dependent on Laney’s self-creation. Although she still managed to score effectively, she is prone to turnover. Atlanta’s hyper-aggressive defense could make Laney frolic. But if the Dream’s defensive discipline disappears, the Liberty could benefit from easy buckets, especially from Rebecca Allen. Allen is playing some of the best ball of her WNBA career by supplementing her shooting with timely driving forces and clever cuts to the ring, in addition to good defense.

Saturday afternoon at 1:00 PM ET on CBS, the Washington Mystics (7-7) end their tryout game against the Dallas Wings (7-8). The match will likely feature an interesting match between one of the league’s best young scorers in Arike Ogunbowale and one of the league’s best young defenders in Ariel Atkins. Since Atkins was named in Team USA while Ogunbowale was not, Ogunbowale may have extra motivation to explode offensively. Atkins, however, could also release a point of outburst. Since Satou Sabally, Kayla Thornton and Isabelle Harrison may slow down after the rotation of Wings Tina Charles, the still short-lived Mystics need a hopefully healthy Atkins to take more of the score.

Game information

Dallas Wings (7-8) vs Washington Mystics (7-7)

When: Saturday 26 June at 13:00 ET

Where: College Park Center in Arlington, TX

How to watch: CBS

Key to the match: With Dallas take early control of Indiana Head coach Vickie Johnson on Thursday expanded Charling Collier’s number 1 draft pick. In a season-high 27 minutes, she scored a career-high 12 points, while also grabbing seven rebounds. With Tina Charles coming to town, Collier may not get as much court time. However, Collier’s skill can be valuable to the Mystics (healthy) non-Charles. With her athletics, she has the potential to get on the floor to challenge Theresa Plaisance’s 3 points or block Megan Gustafson’s moves on the block.

Wing Injury Report: Satou Sabally (probably; Achilles), Marina Mabrey (probably; single)

Mystics injury report: Ariel Atkins (doubtful; back), Kiara Leslie (doubtful; concussion), Erica McCall (doubtful; knee), Natasha Cloud (out; ankle), Myisha Hines-Allen (out; knee), Elena Delle Donne (out; back)

Highlight: Charli Collier schools the fever with her ROY-worthy postal movements

Atlanta Dream (5-8) vs. New York Liberty (7-8)

When: Saturday 26 June at 19:00 ET

Where: Gateway Center Arena in College Park, GA

How to watch: Bally Sports South, YES of SN360

Key to the match: While Charli Collier is able to tackle the Rookie of the Year award, Liberty’s Michaela Onyenwere is the leader in the clubhouse. In the last Liberty-Dream game, she scored a career-high 29 points, with six three-pointers. However, she has struggled mostly since then, scoring only twice as much as her field goal percentage in June to 28.1 percent. On Thursday in New York blowout loss for Chicago, Onyenwere finished with a significant 16 points and six rebounds. But it took her 17 strokes to get those 16 points. Onyenwere not only needs to achieve her efficiency to secure the ROY, but, more importantly, to help the Liberty win ball games.

Dream Injury Report: Tiffany Hayes (outside; knee)

Liberty injuries report: Natasha Howard (out; knee), Jocelyn Willoughby (out of season; Achilles)

Highlight: Michaela Onyenwere shows her offensive potential at ROY level

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