Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Four to the floor

Some thoughts, quotes and notes on the Sun, who extended their season-high losing streak to four games tonight with a 77-71 setback to the New York Liberty.

(1) For the Sun's inability to hold off the Liberty late Tuesday, a lot of credit has to go to New York. It was deadly from 3 (10-for-25), hit all 15 of its free throws and used its balance to wear down a Sun team that's relying on too few players at the moment. The 15 free throws without a miss are the most by a Sun opponent in their franchise history.

And while the Sun's frustrations continued, the Liberty broke their own "skid": For 11 games, they alternated wins and losses before following Saturday's win over Detroit with their victory over the Sun.

"Thank God that’s over," New York coach Patty Coyle said. "I don’t know what that’s about but hopefully we’re out of that."

(2) The absence of players like Tamika Whitmore, Barbara Turner and Jolene Anderson are still hurting the Sun. The three combined for four points in 34 minutes, missing all nine field goals they took. Turner only saw four minutes and didn't even enter until late in the third quarter. Whitmore, meanwhile, only took four shots. If one of the three can become a reliable offensive force sometime before the break, the Sun could very easily break out this slump; their last four losses have come by an average of just six points.

(3) I mentioned this directly after the game, but it still stands as the turning point of the night. The Sun led 59-56 when Asjha Jones went to the bench with five fouls. New York scored 10 straight points before the Sun scored again with 2:07 left, and the Liberty never looked back.

"It hurts," Sun coach Mike Thibault said. "She was having a good game. She was rolling. It took the rhythm of the game away from us."

(4) For all the Sun's woes, Thibault still is showing signs of optimism for this young club.

"The only thing we can do is persevere," he said. "We have good basketball players, and they’re here for a reason. They made it before in their career and you have to have the confidence in them that they will make them again. It’s lack of experience right now, more on the defensive end than on the offensive."

That inexperience was often magnified by the Liberty, who lived on drive-and-kicks and hitting open 3s. The Sun did a good job of switching in the half-court during the first two quarters, but New York, despite technically being the youngest team in the league, figured out ways to exploit the Sun's young wings later in the game.

(5) It's easy to get along when you're winning. But now that the Sun aren't (winning that is), all that team chemistry they built early in the season will be tested more than ever. This dynamic deserves a more in-depth look, but it's an important point to bring up.

"Our attitude is fine," Jones said. "I was impressed with the way we came out tonight. We could fold right, but we have people on this team who pride in the team and know that we’re better than that."

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