Monday, July 21, 2008

Reason No. 496,756 ...

... Why this league makes no sense sometimes. Indiana loses to Atlanta at home, blows a 17-point lead to a Lauren Jackson-less Seattle team and then beats a streaking New York team in its own Outdoor Classic, a game they have all the reason in the world to win. Then, that same Seattle team, riding a seven-game winning streak, is blown out by 32 points Sunday by Washington, a team in turmoil after the firing of its head coach and coming off its two worst losses of the season.

Actually, that's a couple reasons. But nevertheless, as in most years, the WNBA is terribly difficult to predict. For example, even Sun coach Mike Thibault said Sunday that he never thought his team would go on a five-game losing streak, which ended with a 74-67 victory over Chicago.

"I thought we would two or three in a row just because of some of the habits we have sometimes and just because of our newness to each other," Thibault said. "I thought that could happen. I didn’t think we would lose the way we lost a couple of our games. It’s just one game right now. It feels good to win, but they have to remember what that feels like and the level of play you have to play at this league to win every night."

That being said, Sunday's win wasn't too much different than a lot of the Sun's recent losses. They didn't shoot particularly well at times, especially from the free-throw line (9-for-15), and they made several mental mistakes, ranging from a bad Barbara Turner turnover midway through the fourth quarter (Thibault wanted her to slow it down on a fastbreak, but instead she threw a pass that sailed high on Jamie Carey), to a technical foul on Thibault, to an inability to get a consistent scorer outside Asjha Jones (23 points, 10 rebounds) and Lindsay Whalen (20, 8, six assists).

But, in what differed greatly from previous weeks, the Sun finished strong, thanks in large part to Amber Holt, they rebounded well and played pressure defense the entire game. Right from the start, Thibault was urging his players to get up in the faces of their opponents. It produced a a good amount of turnovers (16), something the Sun have struggled to do this season, but more importantly, it set a tone for the entire game.

Another note that didn't make it into today's stories:
Jamie Carey continues to be the Sun's most consistent 3-point shooter, even as the rest of the team has fallen into a funk in recent weeks. She hit two straight early in the fourth quarter that extended the Sun's lead to eight points, partly, Thibault said, because in switching to a zone defense, Chicago didn't automatic recognize what personnel was on the floor and left Carey open twice when the ball was rotated around.

"Those two threes that Jamie (Carey) hit were huge," Lindsay Whalen said. Carey is now second on the team in 3s (25) behind Barbara Turner (30) and leads the Sun in 3-point percentage (41.7), an area she led the league in a year ago. There have been times Thibault has had to remind Carey to shoot more often, mainly because, he said, he can put a bigger player on the floor who won't shoot. Carey, though, has responded most nights; she has four double-digit scoring efforts to her credit this year, including the career-best 18-point performance against New York last week.

Also, from around the league, Deanna Nolan and Cappie Pondexter were named the Eastern and Western Conference's Players of the Week on Monday.

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