Sunday, August 13, 2006

Preparing For The Playoffs

The result shouldn’t matter, but you have to wonder if losing the regular season’s final two games will at all affect into how the Sun perform once the playoffs begin for them Friday.
Granted the team was playing depleted and obviously lacked some necessary emotion with nothing at stake, but it’s hard to turn the switch on after nothing mattered for a period of time. Consider the Indianapolis Colts last season going from a destructive bulldozer to losing in their first postseason game, albeit the death of coach Tony Dungy’s son was also a factor.
I watched most of Sunday’s Connecticut loss at Detroit as I did some other work and here are a few points I took from a mostly dominant performance from the Shock:

Nykesha Sales looked a little fatigued, which is to be expected after her extended layoff. She missed seven of 10 shots en route to eight points and many of those misses are shots we’re used to seeing her make. Nonetheless, I believe coach Mike Thibault made the right decision to play Sales, who is still in search of regaining the rhythm that makes her such a dominant player.

Say what you will about Erin Phillips playing fast at times, but I’m a big fan of her game. She finished with 12 points and three assists, showing her ability to hit outside shots and also get into the lane and cause trouble. My guess is she’ll return to the bench for the playoffs and Sales will again become a starter, but Phillips is a better player than she was a month ago and the Sun now have one of the league’s better backup point guards.

As for Katie Douglas and Lindsay Whalen, the jury is still out regarding how much the rest helped them. Douglas couldn’t play due to her calf and the time off was well-deserved after being an offensive and defensive focal point basically the entire season. Whalen has been banged up as of late, although that’s not unusual based on her aggressive play. I thought she was the best Connecticut player in the previous game against Indiana and felt keeping her in the lineup might have allowed her to retain that success. But you can’t argue with a better-safe-than-sorry approach from any coach when nothing is at stake.


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