Fever (3:30PM ET NBA TV) – Nice bounce back in the WNBA yesterday as the Sky come through for us with another outright winner and I’m going to ramp it up and go with my first 5* WNBA selection of the new season when the Indiana Fever take on the Atlanta Dream at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida.
I’m really kicking myself because my first play of the season was on Indiana when they were obliterated by the Washington Mystics and I knew I should have went right back to them next time out and didn’t. In all honestly, after watching their disastrous performance against the Mystics, I was concerned Indiana was going to need some time to grow and work out the kinks under a new head coach. Indiana seems to have worked them out as they came right back in their next game and dropped 106 points in a 106-100 upset win over the Mercury. Indiana put in another great effort on Friday against Dallas and but the Fever blew a 14 point lead and lost the game late 76-73 (the betting line was anywhere from Indiana +2.5 to Indiana +3.5 so a win/push/loss depending on what the number was). The reason I’m bringing that up is I feel like the Fever have been undervalued all season, they probably should have defeated the Wings on Friday and I think that loss is going to have them focused and motivated to make amends here.
I am not impressed even a little bit with the Atlanta Dream. I bet against the Dream on Friday night and took a ridiculous loss by a point because the Liberty missed an open layup at the buzzer. The only reason Atlanta won that game in the first place was because Sabrina Ionescu went down with an ankle injury in the second quarter as, there’s not a doubt in my mind, the Liberty would have won if Ionescu played the entire game. Here’s my issue with Atlanta, they were bad in 2017 and came out of nowhere in 2018 to go 23-11 and win the East in Nikki Collen’s first season as head coach. I think that was a case of a team just coming together in the face of adversity because the star player on Atlanta that year was Angel McCoughtry and when she went down with a season ending knee injury the girls rallied and the effort every night was almost super human. That prompted people to expect Atlanta to be equally as good in 2019 but the reality was they were still without McCoughtry and all of the other teams in the league got better and the Dream were still trying to ride the same team (inferior from a talent standpoint) from the year earlier. That didn’t work out, Atlanta went 8-26 which was one of the worst records in the league and one of the worst seasons in franchise history for the Dream and when I look back at the past two seasons I see a team void of legitimate talent and a head coach in Collen that completely lost the team last season.
In my opinion Collen is lucky to still have a job as I’ve seen head coaches fired for much less in professional sports but, nevertheless, it’s season three of the Collen era in Atlanta and it’s a team with a new direction as McCoughtry has since signed with Las Vegas. Atlanta went out and brought in a bunch of new girls but the team and the environment was disastrous last season so I’m going to need to see the changes the Dream made make an impact before I move them out of the basement of my power ratings in this league. The two girls I actually thought were decent for Atlanta last year, Tiffany Hayes and Renee Montgomery, have both opted out so while the Dream brought in some reinforcements they are now being tasked with replacing that duo AND trying to get better and I’m just not seeing how that’s going to be the case.
A girl named Betnijah Laney went off for 30 against the Liberty and was the only reason the Dream won that game even with Ionescu getting hurt. I say it with a tone of sarcasm because this is a girl that has been in the league since 2015 and averaged less than 4 points per game in her career entering this season so I think it’s unrealistic to think any of the girls the Dream brought in are capable of being “the girl” on a nightly basis. Atlanta’s other win is over Dallas which is a team that just doesn’t impress me and one the Fever really should have buried on Friday night so I think Atlanta is as overrated and as fortunate of a one loss team that you will find in this league. Atlanta’s other game was against a real opponent in Las Vegas and the Dream lost by 30. As the days move on and the opposition gets tougher I think we will see more of that than the former and until the oddsmakers realize that I will be cashing tickets at Atlanta’s expense.
As you can probably tell this is primarily a fade of Atlanta for me but if you go back through the archives I gushed extensively about this Indiana team in my first WNBA write up of the season. Indiana has a new head coach in Marianne Stanley who was a longtime assistant for the Mystics and I think she’s the right woman to take a young, talented team to the next level. Indiana was 6-28 in 2018 and went into youth/rebuild mode last year and far exceeded expectations going 13-21. Indiana added Lauren Cox (Baylor) with the third overall pick in the draft and she has yet to make her debut (possibly today) so this is a team full of young talent that’s only going to get better.
Indiana will have their days like they did on opening night where they look clueless but the talent on this Fever team is such that they will also have their days where they go out and drop 100+ and beat a quality team like the Mercury. I think the Dream are the worst team the Fever have played yet this season, I expect Indiana to be on high alert after blowing what should have been a win against Dallas on Friday and I think the Fever get it done here. Play on Fever PK (-115) for 5 units
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