What the Monarchs and Sun Must Do in Game 2
The Necessary Adjustments
After taking care of business on the road in Game 1, the Sacramento Monarchs got out to an early lead in this Best-of-Five series. However, both teams struggled in stretches and will be forced to make adjustments. For Connecticut, a Games 2 is essential in what could be their final home game of the season and a raucous, supportive crowd, should help, but they must do more. Sacramento turned up the defensive pressure in the second half of Game 1 and looks to be in the driver's seat. Here is what some of the game's most respected experts had to say after Game 1 and in preparation for Game 2:
"The Connecticut Sun quit rebounding in the second half of Game 1 and they stopped blocking out. In truth, they looked tired. In the first half, Sacramento was the nervous team because they had never been here. Before Ticha Penicheiro got hurt, the Monarchs offense was superb, but you could tell that she is not playing at her healthiest. But Kara Lawson came in and hit a big three-pointer and Nicole Powell turned it on in the second half. I think the Sun's decision-making was an issue. They got pushed by the terrific crowd, which really backed them well, but there were two plays when Nykesha Sales turned the ball over twice. Those were big turnovers because the Sun had some momentum then, but the Sun could not convert in the half court.
The Sun is a poised team that has drawn on its experience in the Finals last year. Coach Thibault talked about maturity and the importance of home court advantage. But now they have to feel like their back is against the wall. They cannot go to Sacramento down 0-2. So does Lindsay Whalen play in Game 2? We saw her limping at the end of Game 1.
It is easy for us to say that Connecticut has to a better job of getting a body on the Monarchs down low and blocking out, but that is the key. Sacramento needs to continue to do a good job defensively of keeping Connecticut out of the middle. They force you to the sides and have great help. Whalen needs to be more effective in the lane and up top to stem the tide in this series."
"In a back to back situation like we have, you can make minimal adjustments. One, two or three max. You can't do much more than that. The difference for me in the second half was that Sacramento's defensive energy turned up, Connecticut did not react well and turned it over 11 times. Sacramento got 13 points off those turnovers. In the first 20 minutes, the floor was spread, they moved the ball and got great offense. All of a sudden after halftime, it was like something clicked for Sacramento. The Monarchs hung their hat on their defense all year. So when their offense got away from them a bit in this game, they did what they do. They guarded their rear ends off.
Margo Dydek has no answer for Yolanda Griffith. She did not show an ability to guard her. I think you might see more Asjha Jones. She is a very good defender even when she is outside because she has great footwork. I think you have to bring her in more because Dydek did not give them much defensively and if she can't guard on defense, why is she in the game?
If Sacramento wins here in Game 2, I think this will be a sweep. Somehow, both teams just need to dig deep. This all said, Lindsay Whalen had a really good look to tie the ball game with under a minute to go. If she makes that shot, it might have been a different outcome."
Rebecca Lobo, WNBA.com and ESPN Analyst:
"It is going to be very tough for Connecticut at this point. They played very good defense on Yolanda Griffith in Game 1, but she was just unbelievable. Margo Dydek brings some really good things defensively, but whenever she was guarding Yolanda, she went right at Dydek and was able to score in pretty much every way possible. The Sun need to hope for another performance like Nykesha had and step it up a little bit defensively. For the most part, Connecticut has to be happy with their offense, but defensively, they need to find an answer for Griffith.
I don't know if the adjustments are a whole lot of X's and O's. Maybe Coach Thibault plays Asjha Jones a little bit more because of the matchup situation, or it might just be a player getting more determined. I don't know that there is a whole lot that can be done in 24 hours. If the Sun decide to double more, that is something they have done all season, so they'll be able to adjust quickly if Coach T wants them to do that."
Nell Fortner, Auburn Women's Head Coach and ESPN analyst:
"I think this was a great game tonight. Players stepped up and hit big shots on both teams. Kara Lawson's three-pointer at the end of the game was a dagger. It took the score to 66-61 in favor of Sacramento and proved too much for Connecticut to overcome. Nykesha Sales also came down and hit a big shot after that. These two teams really fought hard tonight. But the biggest difference in the game was that Connecticut point guard Lindsay Whalen is not healthy. She cannot do the things she is used to doing. It disrupted the flow of the Connecticut team, she is not getting penetration to the basket and is unable to set her teammates up for easy shots. She must be healthy for Connecticut to move win."
Matt Wurst, WNBA.com Editor:
"The Sun really had the crowd behind them in Game 1 but were still unable to convert that energy into solid execution in the second half. Sacramento brought every bit of the defensive intensity in the second half and showed why they were the best defensive team in the league this season. Even though the Sun did a nice job on the boards throughout the game, especially Taj McWilliams-Franklin, they just need to get more physical with the Monarchs' bigs. With much of the talk before the game focusing on the injuries of Whalen and Penicheiro, both were limited throughout the game and sat on the bench much more than they would have had the been healthy. Keys for Sacramento: continue to pursue the ball on the perimeter, crash the boards and win on Thursday. A win in Game 2 would virtually assure them their first title. Keys for Connecticut: work for better shots inside, limit turnovers and stop Yolanda Griffith and Rebekkah Brunson from having their way inside."