Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Two in the hand ...

The Sun and Shock tip off in about 30 minutes in Auburn Hills, Mich. I, like most of you, am back here in Connecticut awaiting two things from this game: Can the Sun clinch the season series against Detroit (they're tied 1-1), giving them a major leg-up down the road if they can stay in contention for one of the conference's top seeds in the playoffs? And, two, can they start a game off well?

A key to winning on the road is taking the crowd out early. The Sun have rarely accomplished that, and have made many of their road wins more difficult than need be because of poor starts. Once the league's last unbeaten team on the road, Connecticut is now 5-4 away from Mohegan (where it's compiled a conference-best eight wins). Detroit, meanwhile, hasn't lost yet at the Palace (7-0). If players like Tamika Whitmore and Barbara Turner especially can start hot, that can make a big difference for everyone else, as Turner is Connecticut's top deep threat and Whitmore usually plays better when she's shooting well early. That will also help to open things up inside for Asjha Jones and Lindsay Whalen, when she's driving.

Speaking of Whalen, no word yet (as of 6:30 p.m. ET) of the selection committee's announcement on the final three players who'll be named to the Olympic team. Whalen is a candidate — and a Seattle Times report said she is expected to — but because of overseas commitments, her wedding and other factors this past offseason, she was unable to attend many Olympic camps and tournaments, which may ultimately push her to alternate status. Sun coach Mike Thibault, also an assistant for the U.S. team, said his sense is Whalen will be an alternate, but he also may be playing his cards close as he also declined to name the three players he thinks will make it. (As an assistant, Thibault is not part of the selection committee directly.)

"I'm just trying to focus on what we're trying to do here," Whalen said, referring to the Sun's season. Swin Cash told the Seattle Times in the same report late last week that she had gotten a phone call last Tuesday informing she hadn't made the team, nor will she be an alternate.

The scout box for tonight's game is below, but first, Diana Taurasi surpassed 3,000 points in her career Tuesday by scoring 30 in Phoenix's 99-94 win over Houston. I was on hand for the Sun game three years ago when Nykesha Sales surpassed the 3,000-point plateau in her career. I was covering the game for the Register (I was an intern then), and to tell you the truth, that article probably helped me land the job here at the Bulletin. If Sales did play this year, she would have needed just 46 points to surpass 4,000 for her career.

Also, WNBA.com released its weekly power rankings. The Sun are No. 3, with Western Conference-leading San Antonio moving up to No. 1.

7:30 p.m. today
The Palace at Auburn Hills, Auburn Hills, Mich.

Records: Connecticut 13-6; Detroit 12-6.
Last game: Connecticut lost Saturday to Indiana, 81-74; Detroit lost July 1 to San Antonio, 79-72.
Next game: Connecticut plays at Washington on Sunday; Detroit hosts Washington on Friday.
Internet: www.connecticutsun.com
Series: Detroit leads the all-time series, 19-14, and the teams have split the season series thus far. Connecticut beat Detroit on June 24, 85-68, at Mohegan, while Detroit won two days later at home, 70-61.
Injuries: Connecticut—none reported. Detroit—Elaine Powell (left foot sprain, day-to-day); Plenette Pierson (right knee sprain, day-to-day).
Scouting report: Connecticut is 9-2 when Asjha Jones, Lindsay Whalen and Tamika Whitmore all score in double figures, though that second loss came Saturday. The Sun are 4-4 when at least one of the three does not. ... The Sun are the second youngest team in the WNBA, with an average age of 25 years, eight days. Only the New York Liberty are younger (24 years, 19 days). ... Though listed on the injury report, Plenette Pierson played 22 minutes in Detroit’s last game, scoring 16 points. The Shock have also been off for the last week. ... All three of the Sun and Shock's match-ups this season have come with the teams in first and second place, respectively, in the Eastern Conference.

22 Barbara Turner 9.5
15 Asjha Jones 16.6
00 Tamika Whitmore 13.0
13 Lindsay Whalen 14.4
1 Amber Holt 5.8

Connecticut reserves
7 Sandrine Gruda 6.1
33 Jolene Anderson 4.9
10 Jamie Carey 3.6

30 Katie Smith 15.9
35 Cheryl Ford 8.4
34 Tasha Humphrey 6.9
14 Deanna Nolan 14.7
55 Sheri Sam 2.9

Detroit reserves
23 Plenette Pierson 11.1
45 Kara Braxton 9.1
22 Alexis Hornbuckle 6.2

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