Offensive struggles hold back the Dallas Wings

Arlington, Texas – The Dallas Wings are the best offensive rebounding team in the league, which offers more opportunities than their opponents to score. However, Dallas is the second-worst shooting team in the league, averaging 38 percent from the field.

Not being able to score consistently has resulted in the team not be able to close out games that are within their grasp in the final minutes, and many of their 14 losses on the year have been close ones. The Wings’ final game Saturday before the All-Star break was no different, as they fell to the Phoenix Mercury, 70-66.

Dallas goes into the break on a five-game losing streak. A week off could be what the team needs to turn the season around and make a run for a playoff spot, with 15 games remaining in the regular season. Head coach Brian Agler said he does not look at how the team is doing based off of their 5-14 record, but on how they are growing as a team.

“Offensively, we are still evolving, we are still trying to figure it out. We’ve got to keep tweaking things and keep working on it, but you are not going to see us throw in the towel and quit,” Agler said.

The Wings have lost their last three games by an average of five points. In the match up against Phoenix, the team went scoreless in the fourth quarter for four and a half minutes. Coming into the game, Phoenix and Dallas had the two lowest offense outputs in the league.

The Wings out-rebounded and shot better from the field, but the team was visibly frustrated by foul calls, as they afforded the Mercury 29 opportunities at the charity stripe, of which they made 26. Britney Griner led the visitors with 17 points and eight rebounds. The 6-8 center said it was a team goal to get their opponents into the bonus.

“We always want to get to the line, we always want to get them in foul trouble, get in the bonus early, that’s always a goal,” Griner said. “I think we did a pretty good job on getting to the line on offense.”

Dallas was led by Kayla Thornton with 16 points, while Glory Johnson added 15 and Theresa Plaisance scored 10 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. One of Plaisance’s two three-point shots fell through at a crucial time, when the team needed to score to close the gap in the final 90 seconds of the game.

In a game featuring 15 lead changes and 13 ties, rookie Arike Ogunbowale was able to cut Phoenix’s league to one with 39 seconds left, but a three-shot foul and a missed three pointer by Plaisance with a chance to tie allowed the Mercury to leave town with a win.

Plaisance said the loss hurt and that it is frustrating to lose, but the team is committed to building with new personnel and a new coach.

“It’s a process and we are growing this process every single day,” she said. “Coach says you put one piece of wood, one nail and eventually you are going to have a house, so we are working on building that house.”

The Wings’ new foundation is being built on rebounding and defense, as the team currently sits fifth in the league in points allowed. They will need to be more fluent in their offensive sets, and must be able to hit shots down the stretch.

For a while, Ogubowale was the go-to option, but lately teams have been focusing on shutting her down, as she was only able to score 8 points which is just her fourth single-digit scoring output for the season. The team has had to start from scratch, and Agler said Dallas is still on chapter one when taking the bigger picture into account.

“In general I like how our tea is competing, I would like for us to be more consistent in some areas,” Agler said. “We have sort of established the identity of being a solid defensive team. I like how we are growing there.”

The Wings return from the all-star break for practice next Sunday to prepare to try to get their first road win of the season against the Las Vegas Aces July 30. The Aces currently sit at the top of the standings, at 12-6.