Friday, July 18, 2008

Sun-Sky Game Thread

Final, Sky 73-65: The Sun went scoreless over the final 3:09 of the game and have now tied a team record for longest single-season losing streak at five games. Asjha Jones finished with 17 points, Sandrine Gruda recorded her first career double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds, but Connecticut (13-10) couldn't overcome five different Sky players in double figures, including Jia Perkins, who had a team-high 15 points.

Lindsay Whalen had by far her least productive game of the season, finishing with a season-low two points, three rebounds and two assists. Despite going 2-for-14 from 3, the Sun hardly relied on the long-range shot to cut into what was a 14-point second-half Sky lead, but after pounding the ball inside, they simply didn't make shots late. Barbara Turner missed two free throws with 2:21 left and then a lay-up less than a minute after that, and after Whalen missed a leaning jump shot with 45 seconds left, Jia Perkins all but put the game away with a lay-up with 22.2 seconds left.

The Sky, losers of five of six and second to last in the East, improved to 7-14.

Tamika Whitmore (13 points, six rebounds) had her best offensive game in four contests, but only playing 18 minutes, as she lost time to Gruda.

Update: Here's the boxscore from the game.

8.2 seconds, fourth quarter, Sky 73-65: Asjha Jones missed an open 3 and though Kerri Gardin grabbed the rebound, her pass out to the key was stolen by K.B. Sharp, who was fouled by Jones. Sharp hit both free throws and the Sun appear destined for their fifth straight loss.

22.2 seconds, fourth quarter, Sky lead 71-65: The Sun chose note to foul after Lindsay Whalen missed a leaner in the lane, and Jia Perkins capitalized, dribbling around the defense and scooping in a left-handed lay-up to push Chicago's lead to six, their largest lead of the quarter. The Sun need a quick core, preferably a 3, though they're 2-for-13 from long range tonight. Jamie Carey has been inserted into the game.

53.2 seconds, fourth quarter, Sky lead 69-65: Frustrating few minutes for Barbara Turner. The forward/guard missed two free throws with 2:21 left, and then had an open lay-up rim out a few moments later.

2:22, fourth quarter, Sky lead 68-65: The Sky continue to prevent the Sun from getting over the hump. A Candice Dupree jump shot from the left baseline just pushed Chicago's advantage back to 3, though Kerri Gardin kept alive a Sun possession with an offensive rebound, after which Mike Thibault signaled for a timeout.

4:01, fourth quarter, Sky lead 65-62: Sandrine Gruda has continued to be very aggressive on the boards and now has her first double-double of her career (11 points, 10 rebounds). She has, though, gotten herself in foul trouble by guarding Chasity Melvin. She has four, and nearly got her fifth minutes later, though Barbara Turner was called for a push on Brooke Wyckoff.

5:31, fourth quarter, 60-60: We officially have a game. The Sun have continued to buckle down on defense, none more so than on Candice Dupree, who has turned invisible the last quarter, and they're running more, too. By feeding off their defense, they simply look more fluid in moving up and down the floor, and it's helped that Jones has come on strong. Dupree, by the way, has just nine points on 2-of-10 shooting. Most of her attempts have come on contested baseline jumpers.

Lindsay Whalen, though, is still struggling through one of her worst games this year. She has just two points on 1-of-7 shooting, and while she hasn't always scored in bunches this year, her assists (two) and rebounds (two) are also way down.

6:35, fourth quarter, Sun lead 60-58: Jones dished to Gruda near the elbow for a 15-foot jumper. It's the Sun's first lead of the game.

8:43, fourth quarter, 56-56: Two Asjha Jones free throws tied the game for the first time since the start of the game. After a Jia Perksin lay-up, Jones came right back with another lay-up to tie it, 58-58. Jones now has 14 points.

End of 3rd quarter, Sky lead 56-52: The Sun turned up the defensive intensity and it helped spark a 10-2 run to finish the quarter. The highlight came with 1.8 seconds left, when on an Asjha Jones missed lay-up, Gruda kept a rebound alive by tipping it to Turner, who in one motion, caught, shot and was fouled to cut the Sky's lead, 56-52. Meanwhile, the Sky committed two shot-clock violations in the final three minutes and had just six points in the final five minutes.

3:36, 3rd quarter, Sky lead 54-42: The Sky's K.B. Sharp just left the game with what appears to be an injured right ankle after jamming it while diving to make a steal near the sideline. She looks like she's quite a bit of pain. Adjust her WNBA fantasy lineups accordingly.

4:58, third quarter, Sky lead 52-41: Whitmore has cracked double digits (13 points) and the Sun's offense is finding its footing, but they still aren't backing up their points with stops. Whitmore, for example, stepped back for a the kind of 17-footer she was hitting so often early, only to watch K.B. Sharp hit a 3 from the corner 13 seconds later. Jia Perkins, however, appeared to injure her ankle after an Armintie Price lay-up, and was asking for a sub right before the media timeout was taken. With her out, the Sky lose one of their top scoring options.

8:28, 3rd quarter, Sky lead 42-33: Tamika Whitmore just threw in an impossible shot as she was fouled, cutting the Sky's lead to single digits for the first time since midway through the second quarter. Amber Holt hit her first basket, a 3-pointer, the last time down the floor. Connecticut is getting some rhythm.

End of 2nd quarter, Sky lead 42-28: The Sky's active defense has given the Sun a lot of problems, holding them to 12-of-34 shooting and a 1-of-8 mark from 3. The Sun, coincidently, looked to put the ball inside for most of the half, but managed just three free throws and is being outscored, 16-10, in the paint.

Some concerns: Lindsay Whalen has just two points on 1-of-4 shooting. She's largely deferred, but also only has one assist to show for it. The Sun have closed the rebound deficit (18-16), but largely, their second-chance points aren't making a huge impact.

The Sky, meanwhile, first got a boost from Quianna Chaney (eight straight points) and then Chasity Melvin, who has nine points and four rebounds, the majority of those coming late in the half. She's handled smaller forwards in Jones and Whitmore and frustrated an inexperienced Gruda despite giving up some height. Chicago also scored 26 points in the second period, this from a team ranked 10th in the league in scoring and hasn't broken 80 points in any of its last four games. The Sun looked passive at times, choosing to go under screens instead of challenging shooters, and Chicago has gotten too easy of looks inside.

As often as the Sun have started games slow, they've come out strong in the third quarter, too. Don't be surprised if Whalen takes more of a load offensively, and if that works, the Sun build from there.

2:50, 2nd quarter, 36-22: The Sky are starting to build some cushion. A Ketia Swanier 3 is the only Sun basket to break up a stretch of 10 straight Chicago points, as the Sun are doing little to slow a well-balanced Sky offense. Mike Thibault is going with a lineup of Whalen, Swanier, Jolene Anderson, Jones and Gruda coming out of the timeout.

5:16, 2nd quarter, Sky lead 26-17: Sharpshooter Quianna Chaney has abused Kerri Gardin over the last few minutes, scoring eight straight points to push Chicago's lead to 11 at one point. One time, she took Gardin off the dribble for a pull-up jumper and then made her fellow rookie pay when she went under a screen, leaving the LSU product open for a 3.

Tamika Whitmore, meanwhile, has come on for the Sun. She has two straight put-backs, including an acrobatic scoop-in that she probably was fouled on.

End of 1st quarter, Sky lead 16-8: The Sun shot just 26 percent (4-for-15) in the opening frame despite taking just one 3 and continually looking to push the ball inside. Mike Thibault has also been busy with substitutions. The entire starting lineup was out of the game by the two-minute mark before Asjha Jones subbed back in for Sandrine Gruda (four points) with under 10 seconds to play.

The Sun were outreboudnded, 13-7, and outscored in the paint, 10-2.

3:44, 1st quarter Sky lead 9-4: Sandrine Gruda and Barbara Turner are the first subs off the bench, replacing Jones and Holt.

5:01, 1st quarter, Sky lead 9-2: Another poor start for the Sun. The Sky have done a good job at limiting looks on the perimeter and when the Sun have gotten inside, they've already missed a couple lay-ups (Jones and Holt, in particular). Chasity Melvin missed a jump hook roughly four minutes in, got the rebound over a flat-footed Whitmore and then scooped it back in. Whitmore's funk also appears to still be in full-gear; she missed badly on a turnaround jump shot along the baseline early in the quarter.

9:48, 1st quarter, no score: Sun and Sky just tipped off. Ketia Swanier started at point guard, moving Lindsay Whalen to the two-guard position. Amber Holt, Asjha Jones and Tamika Whitmore, as usual, round out the frontcourt. Dominique Canty isn't starting for Chicago; K.B. Sharp has taken her place in the backcourt beside Jia Perkins.

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