Saturday, July 14, 2007

Sales, Whalen buoy Sun on road trip

Although hampered by a sprained ankle, sore Achilles’ tendon and aching hip, Nykesha Sales played back-to-back games Wednesday and Thursday and played a major role in the Sun’s increasingly potent offense.

She scored a game-high 23 points in an 82-78 overtime win over the Sacramento Monarchs on Thursday, a night after scoring 15 points in a 76-63 win over the Seattle Storm. In both games, she led the Sun in shots (18 against Sacramento, 15 against Seattle).

Sun coach Mike Thibault said there was a question if Sales would play against the Monarchs – the veteran forward didn’t play last Saturday in L.A. after returning the night before against Phoenix. But the Sun (3-1 on the West Coast road trip) put the Storm away early in the fourth quarter, making it a very easy decision to sit Sales (27 minutes played) for the rest of the game.

“(Thursday) night she was pretty gassed but it kind of gets your adrenaline going when you go into overtime, and you just have to gut it out for the next five minutes,” Thibault said. “She was limping for a while there but we took her out, gave her a break late in the third or early in the fourth quarter and she kind of got her second wind a little bit.

“She’s not going to be 100 percent at all the rest of the year,” he continued. “The Achilles and hip (problems) are always going to be there. That's not going away the rest of her career. It's just a matter of how much pounding she can take. She’s just keeping at it.”

Lindsay Whalen also finished a strong road trip. Over the four games, she averaged 15 points and six assists and shot nearly 58 percent from the field.

“It's how she played … before she got hurt,” Thibault said of Whalen, who underwent offseason ankle surgery in 2005. “She's been aggressive the whole trip and I think our whole team has been.

“Ever since we lost that Washington game at home (91-75 on June 26), I think that's been kind of a turning point for us,” he continued. “We had probably reached our low and like I said then, either you fight your way out or give in, and that's not our nature to give in.”

Some All-Star notes:
(1) Asjha Jones was in Washington Friday for All-Star weekend, said Bill Tavares, the Sun’s media relations manager. Jones had missed Thursday’s games for what Thibault called “personal reasons” and a “family illness.” Jones is expected to play in Sunday’s All-Star Game, her first.

(2) Katie Douglas was chosen to participate in the Three-Point Shootout, one of two pre-game skills competition on Sunday. Others players competing include the Phoenix Mercury’s Diana Taurasi and Penny Taylor, Los Angeles Sparks guard Sidney Spencer, Detroit Shock guard Deanna Nolan and Washington Mystics’ guard Laurie Koehn.
The set-up is as follows, according to It’s a two-round competition with the top three finishers from the first round advancing to the finals. Five shooting stations will be set up around the three-point line, with four WNBA balls each worth one point and one “money ball” worth two points at each location.

(3) Seattle guard and UConn grad Sue Bird, who led all players in fan voting for the All-Star Game but will sit out after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery last Friday, was replaced on the roster by Sacramento guard Kara Lawson (11.4 points, 2.2 assists, 2.6 rebounds per game).

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