Saturday, August 30, 2008

Dreaming of the playoffs

It's official: The Sun are the first team in the WNBA playoffs, keeping their one game lead over Detroit with a 98-72 win over Atlanta. I'm kicking myself for not doing the math beforehand, but it looks like it will be a little longer until they have a chance to clinch homecourt advantage. The Liberty, by the way, are playing themselves out of that position.

Seattle is in town and is practicing this afternoon before the Sun. Check back here later for an update. Lindsay Whalen rolled her ankle during the fourth quarter Friday, and the team should have a better idea of her condition by the time it meets with the media. If it's anything serious, the Sun have the depth to offset it for the time being, but they need Whalen if they want to challenge for a title. There's no one more important to this team, and as good as Jamie Carey has played and Erin Phillips can be when she gets more comfortable, they can't do what Whalen does. No one can, really. Stay tuned.

Here are a few more notes from Friday's win:

(1) Think Tamika Whitmore is primed for the playoffs? The veteran forward scored 27 points against the Dream -- for the second time, no less -- and now has shot 17-for-23 from the field since returning from the break. Given a few weeks to heal up, Whitmore is looking like the player that started this season, free of back and knee troubles.

(2) Asjha Jones has carried over her good play from July. She's now scored in double figures in six of her last seven games with 20 or more points in three of those contests. She also finished the season with games of 18, 30 and 24 points against the Dream.

(3) Kerri Gardin has come on strong. She's scored 11 and 13 points her last two games, both starts. So has Amber Holt (11 points Friday) and Sandrine Gruda (11 and nine points in her last two games). And yes, a month off for rookies who have played the most basketball of their careers does make a difference.

(4) Some notable stats from Friday, in rapid fire: The Sun shot 54.7 percent from the field and 63.6 percent from 3. ... Their 55 points in the first half was a season high. ... Their 27 assists were a franchise record. ... For the second night in a row, the Sun started the game strong. They shot 65.7 percent in the first half against the Fever and nearly 60 percent against the Dream. ... Connecticut's free throw troubles continued; they made 21-of-31 Friday. Coach Mike Thibault has made his team shoot more free throws in practice since early July and has put his players in pressure situations (they can avoid running by hitting their foul shots). They're still shooting 74 percent as a team, but if they struggle from the line in the playoffs, it can be a difference-maker.

(5) Cool part of the Atlanta Dream's post-game notes: They list off the notable names in the crowd. On hand Friday were recording artists Ludacris and Jarvis (who performed at halftime), NBA legend Julius Erving, Philadephia 76ers guard Royal Ivey, Atlanta's Solomon Jones and “Q” from the musical group 112.

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