It was the first of two games Arizona fans had been waiting for. The Phoenix Mercury went on the road to visit the Atlanta Dream, giving Sam Thomas the chance to visit the teammate who helped her build the Wildcats’ program into what it is today. Aari McDonald and the Dream got the victory but seeing the two women on the same court as professionals was a win for Arizona.
Aari McDonald and the Atlanta Dream
The Dream continue to hum right along and McDonald is right in the middle of it. The team had two games during the fourth week of the season. They split the contests, but McDonald had strong games both days.
Atlanta was no match for the Washington Mystics on Tues., May 24. The D.C. team was a rude host, blowing out the Dream by 20 points and holding them to their lowest point total of the season. In the end, it was a 70-50 loss for the visitors, but McDonald continued her run of good showings.
While McDonald is still providing most of her value on the defensive end, she is proving that she can score in this league despite her small stature. She has a defensive rating of 92.5 according to Her Hoop Stats, placing her in the 79th percentile of WNBA players.
Her offensive rating of 92.8 still lags in the 29th percentile, but she has put up double figures in scoring in four of the team’s eight games this season. She only did that seven times in 30 appearances last season as her minutes fluctuated wildly.
Against the Mystics, she was the only member of the Dream to reach double figures in a game no one from Atlanta wanted to write home about. She just reached that level with 10 points on 3-9 shooting. She went 2-5 from beyond the arc, showing an improved outside shot once again.
McDonald is shooting 36.1 percent from out there this season after hitting just 30.8 percent last season. Her phenomenal 61.9 percent success rate from 2-point range has her overall shooting percentage at 45.6 percent.
The plus/minus ratings of the Dream players were not good against Washington, as the score indicates. McDonald was one of the better performers by that metric, though. She had a -4 while playing just over 27 minutes. The only superior numbers (-2) were by two reserves who spent just 4:25 on the floor.
McDonald added a rebound, an assist, and a steal to her stat line against the Mystics. As has been the case throughout the season, she struggled to maintain control of the ball, though. She turned it over three times.
The Dream flipped the script when they faced the Phoenix Mercury in a nationally-televised game on CBS Sun., May 29. Atlanta dominated Phoenix from start to finish, ending with an 81-54 victory at home. It improved the team’s record to 5-3 on the season, helping the Dream reach over half as many victories in eight games as they had in 32 last season.
McDonald played just under 26 minutes and once again hit 10 points. She went 4-9 from the floor and 2-6 from outside. She also showed her prowess on the boards, tying for second on the team with eight rebounds. Only Cheyenne Parker, who is 6-foot-4, outrebounded McDonald on her own team.
McDonald added five assists and two steals. On the negative side, she offset those five assists with five turnovers.
The Dream will play three games in the upcoming week. They start things off on Wed., June 1 hosting the Minnesota Lynx. They will stay home and face the defending champion Chicago Sky on Fri., June 3, then wrap up the week with a home date against the Indiana Fever on Sun., June 5.
Sam Thomas and the Phoenix Mercury
The Mercury continue to struggle with internal issues and the absence of Brittney Griner. They are now 2-6 and have lost five in a row.
Thomas hit a personal milestone, though. She hit her first basket as a professional, connecting on a 2-point shot in the Mercury’s loss to Atlanta. She also saw significant playing time in both games this week.
In the Mercury’s narrow five-point loss to the Los Angeles Sparks, Thomas was on the floor for 14:35. It was the first time in the regular season that she had seen 10 or more minutes of play.
Thomas didn’t score against the Sparks, but she contributed a rebound, an assist, a steal, and a block without turning the ball over. The scoring monkey finally crawled off her back in the second game of the week.
While the Mercury didn’t put up a fight against the Dream, Thomas got into the game late and played her trademark defense. She hit one of four shots, scoring two points. She added a rebound and a steal in 22 minutes of play. It was her longest outing of the season.
She also got her moment with her old teammate.
The Mercury will try to get out of the hole they’ve put themselves in, but it won’t be easy. They face three tough opponents this week, starting off on the road in Chicago against the champion Sky on Tues., May 31. On Fri., June 3, things get even tougher as they return home to host the Connecticut Sun, who lead the Eastern Conference at 6-2. The end of the week features another game against the Sparks on Sun, June 5, this time in Phoenix.