Friday, June 29, 2007

Sun, Fever to square off

With tip-off for the Sun/Indiana Fever game minutes away, it's difficult to judge what kind of mindset the Sun are entering with. They've lost three straight games and are playing in their home buidling where they've lost a franchise-record five in a row.

Sun coach Mike Thibault said he was encouraged by the team's latest outing -- a 77-74 loss in Detroit on Wednesday -- but he said the same thing following a similar three-point loss in Auburn Hills, Mich. on June 15. Two days after that game, Connecticut was embarrassed in an 87-74 loss to the Chicago Sky.

So, just as it is difficult to tell what kind of energy and execution the Sun will play with each night, to take the temperature of this team would be nothing more than a guess.

But one thing is certain: lose tonight for the ninth time in 10 games and the Sun have a week-long break to stew over it. Maybe it's a good thing -- simply playing through their troubles (tonight marks their fourth game in a week) certainly hasn't work. But then again, it could be devastating to have seven days to think about their four-game West Coast road trip, a stretch that at this point will decide their chances of climbing into the playoff race.

It's come to a point where games are more pivotal than ever, one, because the Sun are losing, and two, because it isn't early in the season anymore.

Some notes about tonight's match-up:
* As expected, 28-year-old rookie Evanthia Maltsi (shortened to Evina in the 'Game Notes') will make her second consecutive start in place of the injured Nykesha Sales (ankle). Maltsi had 11 points and six rebounds in 34 minutes Wednesday and provides a scoring option from long-range (she hit 3-of-8 three-pointers).

Thibault said it's taken some time for Maltsi to get adjusted to the league, and it didn't help that she joined the team nearly a month into the season. But even when Sales comes back -- which the team said could be next Friday -- Thibault said he'd like to the Greece native regular time in the rotation.

*Don't expect the Sun to hold Tamika Catchings to nine points and 12 rebounds again (and for her, that is considering "holding"). Catchings, perhaps the best all-around player in the league, has never come close to struggling to those numbers in any other game, and even when she did (12 points in a win over Houston on June 6) she only played 23 minutes and still had nine rebounds and a season-high seven steals.

If they are successful in containing her -- a la, not letting her kill them in the second half -- they'll need a big night scoring from their starting five, as they did last time. One problem the Sun have had late -- in the games they're in, at least -- is finding that go-to scorer to push them over the top. Katie Douglas can be that -- and was in the 78-74 win over Indiana the first time -- but it's a component of the team that's been missing too many times this year.

As will be the procedure for the rest of the season, check the home page of for halftime and post-game updates.

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