Tuesday, July 14, 2009


WNBA: Sun hope to finally shake shooting funk against Sparks

Whitmore to miss 3 weeks; Holt set to return
Posted Jul 13, 2009 @ 10:22 PM

MOHEGAN — Mike Thibault broke down each of the Connecticut Sun’s final 13 fourth-quarter possessions from their 79-77 loss to Detroit on Saturday.

They all had something in common: Nothing; as in what they produced. But the coach saw something else, too.

“You have four lay-ups and four wide-open jump shots that I remember,” Thibault said. “Those are all shots where you say, ‘I’ll take that.’ That’s a shot they take everyday. That’s a shot they make every day.”

“That’s not offense,” he later added. “I don’t care what play you’re running. If you get (a) lay-up, it’s supposed to go in.”

They just aren’t right now. Last in the league in field-goal percentage (38.1 percent) and second-to-last in free throw efficiency (73.3), Connecticut (5-6) has invented new ways of missing.

But with Candace Parker and the struggling Los Angeles Sparks at Mohegan Sun Arena tonight (7 p.m., ESPN2), Thibault said he isn’t concerned with the Sun’s direction. In fact, he’s seen improvement every day.

But is he frustrated? You bet.

“It’s the most helpless feeling in the world as a coach,” Thibault said of missed shots. “Absolutely the most helpless feeling.

“It would be different if you had a player who had mechanical flaws,” he continued. “Their elbow’s out too much, they shoot the ball too much from back here (behind their head).

“But there are players on our team like Asjha (Jones), like Anete (Jekabsone-Zogota), like Tan White, Erin (Phillips), who are very, very mechanically sound shooters. So when they miss, I’m almost shocked.”

The problem, Thibault said, may be as much mental if anything. Good shooters, he said, “think every one of (their shots) are going in. But I think we’re second-guessing ourselves a little bit.”

The tempo and opportunities, meanwhile, are just about where the coach wants. Though slow to push the ball at times earlier this season, the Sun are averaging just fewer than 70 shot attempts per game, and entering last weekend, only Phoenix — the league’s top offense (92.7 points per game) — boasted more scoring opportunities.

The difference: The Mercury finish them. The Sun haven’t.

“Anything is contagious,” said White, who’s been a spark off the bench (9.3 points per game) but shot 1-of-10 last game. “Like if you go to the defensive end and you get a stop, offensively you can get into a flow. ... I think it works hand-in-hand, but at the same time, each individual has their own game and each individual has to knock down their own shot. I can’t just say, just because somebody missed or I missed then the next person is going to miss.”

White also pointed to the Sun’s roster turnover; she’s one of three players to join the team in the last month.

“The chemistry really isn’t there that we need,” she said. “But the more practices that we have, we’re getting better and better, and getting used to how each other play.”

The Sparks (4-7) have faced similar problems. With Lisa Leslie sidelined by a knee injury and Parker, the reigning MVP, just three games into her season after giving birth to her first child, all but one player — rookie Lindsay Wisdom-Hylton — has started at least one game this season.

The offense has suffered as a result, producing a Western Conference-worst 71.3 points per game behind Betty Lennox and Tina Thompson (13.2 points per game each). Even Parker has needed time to adjust. She’s averaging 5.3 points and 4.7 rebounds thus far in her return.

The keys of playing Los Angeles, Thibault said, remain hitting the defensive boards and pressuring its scorers.

He doesn’t have to mention again what’s important for his team.

“One day,” Phillips said, “it’s all just going to click and we’ll get rolling. We just have to have that faith and confidence.”

No comments: