HOME AND AWAY
Posted by Jeff Dengate on Sept. 17 2005 4:59 p.m. PT

SUN LATE-GAME ENERGY VS. ARCO CROWD

With the WNBA Finals relocating to Sacramento for Games 3 and 4, the Connecticut Sun won't have the luxury of feeding off the crowd for some much needed energy in the games' late stages. And while a crowd can provide a nice boost, the Sun players and coaches don't seem overly concerned.

As Coach Thibault remarked at Saturday's practice session, the Sun are possibly the best conditioned team in the league, which allows them the opportunity to take advantage of tired teams late in the game, just as they did Thursday in overtime to even the series at one game apiece.
-- New York Times

"I'll take energy over execution anyday," Thibault said before the Sun practiced at Arco Arena.

The Sun get their conditioning and late-game energy from the practice tactics of Thibault. At the end of workouts -- twice or three times per week -- Thibault has the squad play for five minutes with no stoppages, no fouls and no play calling -- preparation for an extra period.

Of course, on Thursday, the home crowd helped the Sun gain control late, too. But in a building that oozes purple, the Monarchs simply don't lose. Okay, well, they did lost TWICE this year ... and, yes, one of those was to -- you guessed it -- the Connecticut Sun.

So, while the Sun have the momentum entering tomorrow's Game 3, they no longer have the home court advantage.
-- Boston Globe

In year's past, the Finals were a best-of-three affair, with the lower seeded team hosting Game 1, before switching venues for Games 2 and, in needed, Game 3.

We're pretty much back in a best-of-three situation, but with a different wrinkle -- the Monarchs have the edge, hosting the first two contests. Sacramento is, understandably, pleased with the situation.

"If somebody would have told us last April," Monarchs coach John Whisenant said Saturday, "we could go in a best of three series and have the first two at our home court and win two out of three, we would be tickled to death."

So, what to expect now that the series is on the West coast?

Well, start with some more stifling defense. While both team's offenses have, for large stretches, resembled anything but what got them to this point, neither team has previously gone up against D like this each and every night.
-- Hartford Courant

And while the D can take a team out of its game at times, the Sun and Monarchs have to be ready for moments when the defense might break down or lose its focus.
-- Sacramento Bee

Just as Brooke Wyckoff did, making the most of her big shot on the league's biggest stage.
-- The New London Day

If the first two contests were any indication, we can expect the remainder of this series to swing to and fro, ultimately being decided by which team can execute down the stretch and take advantage of any opportunities it can create.

Also, keep an eye on the point, where Lindsay Whalen remains a question mark.
-- Sacramento Bee

It was her left ankle, not knee, that kept her out of action in Game 2.
-- Hartford Courant

On the Sacramento sideline, Ticha Penicheiro continues too feel the effects of a sprained left ankle, which was still sore through Game 2 of the Finals. Maybe it's a good thing she takes the floor right-foot-first.
-- Norwich Bulletin

And finally, one thing we don't expect: Kara Lawson to be booed at Arco.
-- The New London Day

FINALS EXAM(INATION)
Posted by Jeff Dengate on Sept. 13 2005 5:45 p.m. ET

GETTING TO THE POINT

After Sacramento spent the better part of the 2005 season chasing Connecticut for the league's best mark -- which the Sun locked up at 26-8 -- it should come as little suprise that both teams swept their way through the playoffs to set up this year's Finals showdown, which tips Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET.

Just how important was that one game edge Connecticut held over Sacramento? Well, look at it this way: Games 1 and 2 will be staged at the Mohegan Sun Arena. Considering the Sun captured the season series 2-0 -- with a win coming at both home and on the road -- and the first team to three wins in the Finals is crowned champion -- the Monarchs will need to get off to a fast start before heading home for Game 3 and, if necessary, Game 4.

For the Monarchs, defeating Connecticut initially looked like a tall order, with Ticha Penicheiro still nursing a tender ankle -- an injury suffered during practice which caused the point guard to miss all of the Western Conference Finals.

Then came news Monday that the Sun may be thin in the backcourt as well, after MRI's revealed a small crack in Lindsay Whalen's left knee. Whalen could miss the first two games at home. Coverage here, here, here and here.
-- ESPN.com, New York Times, L.A. Times and Norwich Bulletin

So, with each team hobbled in the backcourt, which team has the edge?
-- FOX Sports

Well, one theory is that if Whalen is a no-go early in the series, the Sun's loss in the backcourt could turn in to another loss in The Finals record book. The Sun is more starter dominated, with four players averaging better than 30 minutes per game.

The Monarchs, in contrast, have depth on their side, giving seven players at least 20 minutes of action -- none averaging more than 29.1 minutes of burn.

Sacramento also weathered a stiff challenge from Houston in the Conference Finals without Penicheiro, getting quality play from Kara Lawson and rookie Kristin Haynie.
-- Sacramento Bee

So, aside from the questions surrounding the guard spot, how do the teams match up elsewhere?

Let's turn to the experts. First up, Nancy Lieberman.
-- ESPN.com

Now, it's Doris Burke's turn.
-- WNBA.com

As the teams do some fine-tuning for Game 1 tomorrow, we'll leave you with a few other compelling storylines at this year's Finals:

Offense vs. Defense

The classic stand-off on the field of play. The Sun are known more for its offense; Sacramento its defense. But don't let anybody discount the Monarchs on the offensive end, or Connecticut on D.
-- Sacramento Bee

Old vs. Young

Sacramento's 35-year-old center Yolanda Griffith may be running out of chances for a title ...
-- Sacramento Bee

... while 22-year-old Kristin Haynie is looking at a second championship opportunity in less than six months.
-- Sacramento Bee

Recovery

Monarchs All-Star forward DeMya Walker has only two games under her belt after suffering a sprained right knee. But on the other side of the ball, it was a more serious knee injury that sidelined Connecticut's Brook Wyckoff for the Sun's championship series with Seattle a year ago.
-- Hartford Courant

Wyckoff's late triple energized the home crowd and her teammates.
(Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images)