Thank you, Taj McWilliams-Franklin. Thank you, Nykesha Sayles. Thank you, Katie Douglas. I'll even throw a thank you to Brooke Wyckoff. I said yesterday that I would be disappointed if the Sun came out flat and without heart last night. I said that the Sun needed stronger post play. I said that someone needed to step up off the bench.
What a game! It was thrilling right up to the last two minutes of overtime when Sacramento Coach John Whisenant virtually conceded the game by pulling his stars. I found myself cheering for the Connecticut Sun last night, not because I actually want them to win this series, but because I wanted a contest. They gave me, and the rest of the WNBA fans watching last night's game on ESPN2 that contest.
They didn't just make this one game a contest, they set the tone to make this series a contest. They played hard, they played with heart, and they had to have put a question in the minds of the Monarch's players and coaching staff. The league could not have asked for a better battle, and I can only imagine that it will help sell tickets and advertisements for next season.
Taj answered the brilliance of Yolanda Griffith in Game 1 with her own brilliant performance in Game 2. She dominated inside from the outset, and after a brief rest at the end of regulation, she came out aggressive in OT, and outplayed the exhausted Griffith for the last 5 minutes of game time.
Her determination was clear. In stark contrast to the previous evening, Taj took 11 free throws herself, the entire team only took 10 on Wednesday. Connecticut Coach Mike Thibault showed that it DOES pay to complain long, loud and hard about the officiating. Sayles and Douglas managed to deliver again, adding 35 points, 7 assists, 3 rebounds, 3 blocked shots and 6 steals between them. Finally, Brooke Wyckoff added 9 points off the bench and hit the clutch three pointer that sent the game into OT. Rookie guards Jennifer Derevjanik and Jamie Carey played a solid floor game, contributing 6 points, 8 assists, 2 steals and only commiting 4 turnovers between them. Neither was spectacular, but they didn't need to be, they just needed to be solid, and that they were. Coach Thibault made the decision to use a zone every time Ticha Penicheiro was on the floor, and it worked, forcing Coach Whisenant to use Kara Lawson at the point, and limiting Ticha to 15 minutes of playing time, 0pts, 0stls and 2 assists. This helped Sacramento's scoring, but hurt their defense and limited their offense. Sacramento's marriage to the "white line" defense also was the primary reason Nicole Powell left Brooke Wyckoff open for the game tying shot.
Thibault and the Suns made their adjustments after Game 1, and it paid off for them. It is now time for Whisenant and the Monarch's to make their adjustments. The Suns showed them that they can play defense, rebound and run their offense without Lindsey Whalen. They showed the Monarchs that they can WIN without Lindsey Whalen. It is now up to Sacramento to show the Suns that it just isn't the same game in Arco Arena.
I still think the Monarchs win this series in four games. I am now confident, that all four of them will be brilliant to watch.