How the return of Gray, Sabally can turn Dallas losses into wins

And charting Marina Mabrey's rise

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The Dallas Wings are looking to end their four-game skid against the Los Angeles Sparks on Tuesday. They’ll have two critical pieces to help them do it, in support of the ascension of a third: five-year veteran Allisha Gray and second year forward Satou Sabally return to help the star-level production of Marina Mabrey.

Dallas opened the season with a win against Los Angeles; then lost the following four games by an average of five points. So this additional talent is no small thing for a team that has come close in recent weeks.

The Wings are currently second in scoring, but there are three things that have prevented them from adding more to the win column: turnovers, rebounding and locking down defensively for the full 40 minutes. Head coach Vickie Johnson said the team has to play better as a whole and take pride in what they do defensively.

“Defense is hard. Boxing out is hard. You have to have heart, have to have passion, you have to have something within that you're willing to compete, especially when they are just attacking us want one on one,” Johnson said.

Another hard thing for opponents: stopping Mabrey.

The third-year guard is second in scoring on the team since Gray’s departure. She is shooting 52.8 percent from the field and 51.4 percent beyond the arc while leading the team in minutes.

After the 89-85 loss to the Phoenix Mercury on May 29, Mabrey told reporters while they are missing two key players they cannot assume the team will begin winning just because they have returned.

“We try to get better every game I know that wins and losses obviously matter but right now for us we need to concentrate on fixing the things within us and not beating ourselves,” Mabrey said.

Gray and Sabally are expected to meet the team on their upcoming five-game road trip. Gray has led the United States to Tokyo berth and Sabally will have fulfilled her national team duties.

Without those key players and late arrivals, the team has had push more minutes on players like Mabrey, 2020 scoring leader Arike Ogunbowale, as well as veterans Isabelle Harrison and Kayla Thornton. Johnson said she is looking forward to have a full roster where her system can be put in place and minutes can be evenly distributed.

It's just so many other things we can do with the lineup, we can go big, we go small. We can play any way we want to go and, and not only that, we don't have to push someone for 10 minutes at a time,” Johnson said.

The roster is filling out just in time as the five-game road trip includes back-to-backs against the Seattle Storm and Phoenix Mercury, respectively, and concludes with a matchup against the Las Vegas Aces.

Johnson has high expectations for her team. and while the team has begun the season 1-4. But once the roster is complete, there is plenty of upside for Dallas. Right now, the focus is securing a win at home against the Los Angeles Sparks before heading out on the road for two weeks.