Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Sun weather Storm

Apologies from the lack of posts from tonight's game (I was on desk in the office), but here are some observations from the Sun's 74-67 win over the Seattle Storm, their sixth victory in seven games and league-leading ninth overall.

(1) Rebounding: Connecticut (9-2) won the battle on the boards by a small margin (40-37) and by the end of the game, Seattle (7-6, three straight losses) nearly had as many offensive boards (12 to the Sun's 14). But Connecticut's rebounding kept them in the game early. Tamika Raymond grabbed three offensive rebounds in the first quarter alone, helping to stop the bleeding as Seattle built a nine-point lead by start of the second frame. Raymond finished with nine total boards for the game, a season-high six coming on the offensive end.

The bench as a whole came up big in that opening sequence. After Seattle went on an 11-0 to erase a 2-0 Sun lead, coach Mike Thibault benched his entire starting before the game was even five minutes old. The team of Jamie Carey, Barbara Turner, Kerri Gardin, Sandrine Gruda and Raymond never closed the gap entirely, but Gruda scored six straight points during on stretch and the Sun were able to restore some momentum by the end of the quarter. The starting five returned at the start of the second, where they made 22-10 a run and took a 37-36 lead at the half.

(2) Bench warms: For the game, the Sun's bench outscored Seattle razor thin platoon of reserves, 29-5. Barbara Turner, making her return to the team that cut prior to training camp last season, scored 13, nailing four 3-pointers, including a huge one with 1:14 to play in the fourth that put the Sun up, 66-65. Gruda added a career-high 10, making 5-of-7 from the field in 17 minutes.

Seattle hasn't had a strong bench all season, but coach Brian Agler was forced to start sixth man Tanisha Wright as Yolanda Griffith sat with left ankle and knee injuries sustained Friday in San Antonio. As a result, Seattle reserves played a total of 40:26 minutes. Sun bench players played nearly double that (75:46). As good as Seattle had been at home (6-0 this season, with a 10-game home win streak dating back to last season), it's difficult to win when you lean on your starters that heavily.

(3) Asjha Jones (15 points) continues to be an offensive force. Since scoring four points on five shots against Indiana (May 27), Jones has scored in double figures in six of seven games, taking 14 or more shots five times.

Lindsay Whalen, meanwhile, remains the Sun's most consistent scorer. With 13 points against Seattle, she's now scored in double figures in 15 straight games, two shy of the franchise record set by Katie Douglas in 2006. She also grabbed seven more rebounds Monday, adding to her team lead.

(4) Candace Parker and Lisa Leslie continue to grab attention, but Lauren Jackson still is playing at an MVP level. She scored 26 points (making 8-of-8 free throws) while grabbing seven rebounds. Sue Bird was the only other Storm player in double figures (13 points), but the offense became Jackson and little else as the game wore on.

(5) Quick-hitters: Tamika Whitmore struggled from the field (3-for-13), but still managed 13 points, six rebounds and four assists. ... The Sun limited their turnovers to 11, rebounding from a sloppy start with five in the first quarter. ... Defensively, the Sun limited Seattle to 36.4 percent shooting, but their defense continues to lack aggressiveness. Last in blocks and steals, they recorded one and four, respectively, and forced just 10 turnovers. In their defense, the Storm have one of the league's top point guards in Bird, but with rookies Amber Holt and Jolene Anderson on the wings, Connecticut's become more of a team looking to contain rather than disrupt. Players and coaches alike have talked of changing that, but it hasn't translated just yet.

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