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Opening up against Detroit, weíre going to have to get ourselves in a certain mindset, a mindset of being ready to play tough and physical, because thatís how the Shock like to play. I know that Iím going to get beat up this series, but as long as Iím still walking when itís over, thatís all that matters.
Catchings and Co. host Detroit in Thursday's Game 1.|
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For either team, losing the first game puts the pressure on in a sense of you have to now win the next game. The first game is so vital. Lose in that first game, and it can cause teams to tighten up, but it also brings the best out of you as a team. If you donít win, you go home, and this is what you play for the whole regular season. Man, you canít go home in two.
With the players that they have with Katie Smith, Deanna Nolan and Swin Cash on the wings, and then Ruth Riley down low, itís hard to focus on just one player. But Cheryl Ford would be the one player that we focus on more so on the boards because she is such an outstanding rebounder. She gets in great position on the offensive glass. Their offense is perfect for her in that she is pretty much in the same spot on the floor for the whole game. It seems as if itís designed with everybodyís strength in mind. Cheryl knows when her teammates are going to shoot and she knows how to get position under the basket. She is really good at taking up space and moving her defender under the basket in order to put herself in better position. Of course we would love to keep her off the glass, but I think every team goes in thinking that. Most likely weíll break down defensively at some point. Then itís just a matter of locating that breakdown.
In preparing for games, and especially this series, I think Iíll focus more on the defensive end and then move to the offensive end in terms of what I need to do. For the most part, itís thinking what an opposing player likes to do when I guard her and figuring out the best way to stop her.
With Coach Winters, one of the things he talks about is opportunity and how not many players get an opportunity to play in the playoffs, let alone play for a championship. He wants us to seize the moment and go out there and play ball. Now is the time we need to be peaking as a team. Itís about leaving everything on the court and seeing what happens.
Even though weíre already in the playoffs, we still have some work to do with a couple games left in the regular season. At this point, practice is more mental than physical. Weíre getting our mind right, watching tape, pretty much going over the little things that we need to adjust and the wrinkles we need to put in. The biggest focal points for us have been our out of bounds plays on offense and how we want to play defense. In some of our recent games, weíve let things get away towards the end and havenít controlled things that we should have.
Catchings wants revenge against Connecticut|
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If we can get by Detroit, then there is a chance for us to play Connecticut, a team that knocked us out of the playoffs last year and a team that we face twice before the season ends. Playing them allows us to see where we are as a team. We would love to beat them both times and give them something to think about should we meet in the playoffs, but honestly, I donít think it would bother them. Theyíve been in that situation before, so their mentality is a lot different from ours. For us, it is something in the back of our minds where we know we can beat them since weíve done it before. But once you get to the playoffs, itís a totally different situation and what you did in the regular season doesnít mean much.
I think, though, that we have enough with some of our offseason additions to take that next step and get to the WNBA Finals. Tamika Whitmore has come in and done a great job for us. One of the things weíve talked about in previous years has been having another consistent scorer, which is something Tamika has brought at an All-Star level this year. Then add in Anna DeForge who, although a lot of people were surprised that we traded away Kelly Miller for her, has come in and done a great job adapting to a new system and style of play. In Phoenix, they were just worried about scoring. Here our main concern is defense, which was a big difference for her. Lately she has gone through a bit of a shooting slump, but we know that she can put points on the board. Even with that, what we try to do is keep her confidence up and keep her shooting.
Overall we need to start playing with more confidence, play better defense and get back to how we played in the beginning of the season. If we can put everything together and start playing our best basketball as we head into the playoffs, we definitely have a shot.
Regardless of how our season ends up, though, I am excited for the future having recently signed a contract extension and knowing that almost all of my teammates are signed for at least another year. Itís great to know that weíll have another strong core to come back to. This is my fifth year here and it seems like we have had a different core every year. For me, it is an opportunity to be part of a great organization in a great city with great fans that support us.