Necessary Adjustments and Keys for Game 4
What They Must Do
The Sacramento Monarchs regained the momentum at home in this Best-of-Five series with a big win in Game 3 at a pumping ARCO Arena, but the Connecticut Sun have been in big elimination games before. Coming in, the Sun said they only needed to win one game in Sacramento. Well this is the game they have to win in order to force a deciding Game 5. So what can we expect out of both teams in Game 4? (ESPN 2, 8 p.m. ET). With just one day of rest and practice before these two teams jump it up and go at one another again, here is what some of the game's most respected experts had to say after Game 3 and in preparation for Game 4:
"Connecticut has to take care of the basketball! I think that has been the hardest thing for them. Sacramento's defense pressured them a lot more in Game 3. I think they just shut down Taj McWilliams-Franklin in the second half. She did not get the ball and Douglas and Sales were non-existent. Sales started to take over in spurts. They couldn't do anything more. I think the Monarchs' perimeter defense prevented the Sun from getting any easy looks. Connecticut s a team that led the WNBA is assists and they only had seven assists in Game 3. They have to score more off passes. They can't go one-on-one.
I really think Sacramento did a great job on the boards. They had been dominating the rebounding stat column, but in Connecticut's comeback, the Sun then started to hit the boards. I do not think Game 4 is a foregone conclusion by any stretch simply because of the fact that Connecticut has come in here and won. If they make the adjustments that they made from Game 1 to Game 2, hit some shots, get some good picks, they will be very competitive. Remember that Sacramento had a five minute stretch where they did not score in Game 3. They took bad shots and the ball did not fall for them. Connecticut is a team known for getting to the free throw line and they have struggled to do so in this series. And when they do get there, they are not making their free throws. A lot of that is the result of the Sun missing the leadership of Lindsay Whalen. The Sun just cannot do the things they want to do."
"I think Connecticut is more than capable of making the necessary adjustments prior to Game 4. You have two of the best coaches in the league and obviously the one who has the bigger adjustments to make is Mike Thibault. But I don't even know that it is about adjustments. The same thing that pinched the Sun in the Game 1 loss pinched them in the Game 3 loss: turnovers. I thought the pace was completely different today. In this building, Sacramento gives up 55 points. In Game 3, yup, you guessed it, they gave up 55 points. The pace needs to be more in Connecticut's favor if they are to have a chance in Game 4. They need to get up and down a little bit more. I think Thibault has a difficult decision. If Lindsay Whalen can't be Lindsay Whalen, he'll go with Jen Derevjanik and Jamie Carey. But it's a hard thing to know.
After Game 3, Nell Fortner and I were talking and she was talking about how the Monarchs did a good job building up that lead early where they could absorb that blow that Connecticut came back with. That is a great point, but the Monarchs also showed vulnerability. They took bad shots at certain times, they did not execute their offense, they went away from Yolanda Griffith - all the things they do when they lose.
"The Sun struggled holding onto the ball in the first game and in the second game, it was just the opposite. In Game 3, Sacramento had a chance to blow Connecticut out. At the 12-minute mark in the second half, I said on the air that Connecticut was going to find themselves in a situation where they could not recover from a double-digit deficit. But the Monarchs let them come back. The Sun went on a 10-0 or 12-0 run, so I think that come Tuesday night, Sacramento is going to have to play a lot better once they get the lead. On the flip side, Connecticut has to be careful not to squander as many opportunities as they had tonight. In the first game, Connecticut did not even get a chance. In Game 3, they had chances but did not take advantage of them.
I think Lindsay Whalen's health is and will continue to be a factor. They can say whatever they want about the fact that she is playing or will or won't be starting, but Whalen is just not the same player. Her game is all about quickness, getting in the lane and strategy. Right now, she is a shell of herself and in playing her, they are hoping against hope that she can help them, but it does not look that way.
Rebecca Lobo, WNBA.com and ESPN Analyst:
"Connecticut has to take care of the ball better. They have to feel pretty good about the run they made in the second half and closed the lead to only two points. Coach Thibault told me at halftime that the difference in the game was the number of possessions. Sacramento had ten more shot attempts than Connecticut at that point and the turnovers were killing them. The Sun is not a team that had problems with turnovers at all really this season. They have made quick adjustments and been able to take care of the ball. The question is Lindsay Whalen. She was not effective in Game 3, you saw her hobbling. Coach Thibault has to be happy with Jamie Carey and Jen Derevjanik again, though.
If the Monarchs turn on the light and go to Yolanda Griffith every time, they'll be in really good shape. For some reason, the Monarchs guards decide to start jacking up bad shots when Yo is available to get the ball inside to her. It frustrates me as a former post player because she is one of the best interior players in the game and they need to get her the ball pretty much every time down the floor."
Matt Wurst, WNBA.com Editor:
"The most telling stat of Game 3: Connecticut had 16 turnovers that led to 20 points while Sacramento tied their own Finals record with only seven turnovers leading to 0 points. That is huge. One reason that the Sun are turning the ball over so much is that their offense is disjointed as three different point guards are shuttled into and out of the lineup. At least in Game 2 the Sun knew going in that they could not count on Whalen and that advance psychology makes a difference. Why not start Derevjanik and bring Whalen in off the bench to provide a spark in spurts? As for the Monarchs, yes, their crowd is great and yes the volume is loud (though the arena sound system has a lot to do with that, I think) and yes their defense is stifling. However, they let the Sun back in Game 3 despite having a 14-point lead with under 10 minutes to go in the game. Don't change what's working, if you're Coach John Whisenant - emphasize pounding the ball inside and rebounding and this series ends in four.