July 19 WNBA Preview — Atlanta Dream (5-12) at Connecticut (11-6)

With their inside-out game back on track, the Connecticut Sun seek a third straight victory Friday night when they face the Atlanta Dream to kick off a four-game homestand.

Connecticut has the best record in the WNBA at 11-6, and any lingering effects from a five-game losing streak appear to have dissipated after posting back-to-back victories. All-Star Jonquel Jones had a season-high 26 points and eight rebounds while Shekinna Stricklen added all 12 of her points via four 3-pointers to help the Sun cruise to a 76-63 win at Indiana on Sunday.

Jones, who was named WNBA Player of the Week for the fourth time this season Monday, has totaled 39 points and 19 rebounds in the two wins after being held to averages of 11.0 points and 8.4 rebounds during the Sun’s five-game skid. The Sun also improved to 8-0 when Stricklen hits at least three treys in a game, and the guard is shooting 40 percent (42 for 105) from beyond the arc on the season.

“We got into the paint in the first half and I think that it opened it up for us in the second half and allowed us to use our legs and make nine 3s in the second half because we were so successful getting into the paint,” Sun coach Curt Miller said to the team’s official Twitter account. “That’s not easy to do – three games in five days to make nine 3s on the road in the second half.”

Alyssa Thomas found out she will be joining Jones at the WNBA All-Star game later this month in Las Vegas after the league tabbed her as one of the 12 reserves Monday. The teams will be drafted Tuesday by captains Elena Delle Donne of the Washington Mystics and A’ja Wilson of the host Aces.

Atlanta (5-12) is on the second leg of a three-game road swing after a tough 77-76 defeat at Chicago on Wednesday. Renee Montgomery hit six 3-pointers and scored 23 points while Jessica Breland added 10 and 11 rebounds, but the Dream’s issues of closing teams out persisted as they squandered an eight-point fourth-quarter lead and were held to six points over the final 6:11.

Despite being last in the league in scoring at 70.2 points per game, the Dream have cleared 70 in three of their last four games – a run that began with a 78-75 victory over the Sun on July 10 when Tiffany Hayes scored 18 points and Breland pulled down a season-best 13 boards.

Atlanta, though, is still also last in the league in overall shooting percentage (36.7) and 3-point shooting (28.3). Montgomery is three 3-pointers shy of becoming just the 13th player in WNBA history to hit 500.

While she will not be available until Sunday, the Dream signed center Alaina Coates on Thursday. The No. 2 overall pick in the 2017 draft averaged 2.5 points and 2.4 rebounds in 14 games for the Minnesota Lynx and made a definite impact on Dream coach Nicki Collen after she had a career-high 10 points and nine boards in Minnesota’s 85-68 win over Atlanta on July 2.

“We are thrilled to add a player with the size and athleticism of Alaina,” Collen told the Dream’s official website. “We have struggled at times with defensive rebounding and scoring efficiently around the rim this season, and we believe she can help us in those two areas now and in the future.”

The Sun won the first two meetings between the teams this season, including an 86-76 victory at Mohegan Sun on June 21 when Stricklen buried seven 3-pointers and finished with 24 points. Connecticut has won 14 of its last 15 home games dating back to last year.

(Alyssa Thomas photo courtesy Connecticut Sun official Twitter account)

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