Game 1 - Post-Game Analysis
DETROIT, Aug. 30 -- The Sacramento Monarchs, still undefeated in the postsesaon, took Game 1 of the 2006 WNBA Finals to steal home-court advantage away from the Detroit Shock. Detroit will need to rebound (literally and figuratively) on Friday (7:30 pm ET, ESPN 2), or face a trip out West in an 0-2 hole. After the game, some of the experts on hand gave us their keys to Sacramento's 24-point win in Game 1 and let us know what adjustments Detroit must make in Game 2 to even the series:
What happened: "The rebounds evened out a bit in the end, but Sacramento dominated the offensive glass and I think with them doing that, it took away the running game of Detroit. They like to get points on the break and they're the No. 1 rebounding team in the league. But tonight, they couldn't get it done.
"I also thought that the defensive pressure that the Sacramento guards put on Smith and Nolan was huge, because if forced turnovers and they were able to get into their running game. They're a team that can push it up.
"And for them to be able to knock down outside shots against not only the man-to-man defense, but also the zone, opens up the middle. Detroit's going to have to make adjustments on the defensive end to stop the dribble penetration of Penicheiro and them getting baseline or turning the corner off of picks. Sacramento just kept getting inside the lane and they were either getting layups or they were dishing it out to the shooters.
What now: "The bigs for Detroit are going to have to come to play. Braxton missed a lot of easy shots inside. And what happened with Riley and Cash? Brunson was 2-for-10, but her defense and her athletic ability really can create some problems. I look for Detroit to play more physical and try to make plays where they can get Sacramento in foul trouble and get to the line."
What happened: "Obviously, Detroit can't turn the ball over 24 times and expect to win. The fact that they also got outrebounded doesn't bode well. I was very disappointed that they came out with this type of an effort in Game 1 of a championship series. Swin Cash and Ruth Riley had two points combined. That's not going to cut it.
"On the other hand, everything impressed me about Sacramento. They came out and hit shots. They had a Finals-record 10 threes, including a record six from Kara Lawson. They came out focused, determined and alert. They came out to not only meet the level of energy of Detroit, but they exceeded it. It was a perfect gameplan by John Whisenant. They knocked down shots on the perimeter which then opened up the inside. They forced turnovers. They outrebounded Detroit. It was a perfectly executed gameplan.
What now: "Detroit is going to have to reverse the ball offensively. They can't keep the ball on one side of the floor like they did. They were standing around and you can't have that happen, especially against one of the best defensive teams in the league. They have to be able to hit shots. Ford, Nolan and Katie Smith played their tails off and, as I said on TV, the rest of the team ought to go in there and apologize to them for not giving the effor that they should have."
What happened: "Rebounding, teamwork, depth and cohesion. I thought that Deanna Nolen and Katie Smith would test the individual defense of Nicole Powell and Kara Lawson, but on the other side, that those two players could test Detroit's defense. And clearly, Sacramento was far more up to the task on the defensive end than Detroit was.
"Points in the paing, and-one situations and free-throw opportunities were key. Every stat where you can define who's dictating the flow and the feel of the game was in Sacramento's favor. With the and-one situations, you know Detroit's frontline is gonna hit you. They're imposing, but the Monarchs were able to absorb the hit and still score.
"And then the ball movement was excellent. Sacramento won a title last year because they were the best defensive team in the league. Right now, to me, they're as good offensively as they are on the defensive side ... and that's a scary thought.
What now: "First of all. Detroit's got to show some pride. Their mental toughness is being challenged. Somebody came into their building and put a hurt on them. Other than that, clearly they're at their best when they get transition opportunities. Three fast-break points isn't nearly enough. Because when they've got to grind in the halfcourt, they're not as good a team. And they're defense has got to be better. They've got to contest shots while not allowing easy opportunities for the Sacramento bigs. The third thing is that you can't have Cash and Riley, two starters and two players with rings, combine for two points. Bill Laimbeer was frustrated with Swin all night long. He didn't play her for long stretches, and you saw in Game 3 the other night how important her offensive contributions are to Detroit. They will not win this series if those two players don't show up. "
What happened: "Defense and rebounding were supposed to be the key for both teams, but we didn't really see either from Detroit and that was surprising to me. It started from the very beginning. Sacramento just really executed offensively. They were crisp. They shared the ball. They got second-chance baskets which was key because you're getting more possessions off the glass. Detroit just did not look like they were themselves.
"Kara Lawson was on fire. She's that kind of competitor and she's an athlete. She gets focused and when she sees something that she can exploit, she's going to take full advantage of it. Tonight, she was getting open shots. She admits herself that she's not the quickest. She's not the fastest athlete, but she's smart and efficient. She knows how to get open and she knows how to get shots.
"I talked to Bill Laimbeer at halftime about Swin Cash and he just said that she wasn't playing hard enough, flat out. And he couldn't play her when she's playing like that. He tried to give her a second chance in the second half, but I guess he didn't like what he saw, because she didn't play very long.
"Detroit has got to come out here and produce. It's hard for me as a spectator to sit here and say how hard they're playing or not, but production is something you can see in the boxscore. And two points out of two of your starters is not going to help you win the championship.
What now: "Coach Laimbeer said in the huddle that it's a very simple game. You gotta get stops, make shots and not turn the ball over. Those are three things they didn't do tonight. They've got talent. That's not the issue. It's a matter of executing ... on both sides of the floor."
What happened: "We saw why the Monarchs are still the defending champions tonight. Everyone showed up to play, which was not the case for Detroit. Sacramento simply came out better prepared than the Shock and put the game away in the first half. The Monarchs outshot, outrebounded and outhustled Detroit in their own building. Kara Lawson and Nicole Powell shot the Monarchs to a double digit lead and DeMya Walker and Yolanda Griffith helped pad that lead. Lawson's 22 points led the team, but were nearly matched by Nicole Powell's 21. They played with energy and confidence, just like they have all postseason.
"You saw the Shock start to put some things together in the second half as they began to establish position inside. They need to come out with real energy in Game 2 and not let Sacramento dominate them on the boards again or force them into taking offbalance shots. The Shock have disappeared at times offensively this season, but it never lasts long. Katie Smith, Deanna Nolan and Cheryl Ford did all they could to keep the Shock in the game. Swin Cash and Ruth Riley were a combined 0-for-3 from the field, but they got no help whatsoever from their bench. That cannot happen if the Shock are to stay competitive in Game 2. Defensively they need to react quicker and gets hands in the faces of the shooters.
What now: "The Monarchs cannot rest on their laurels or get complacent. They can still improve defensively. The team did not practice for two days prior to this game and looked tired in giving up some easy baskets in the second half. We may not have seen 100 points tonight, but we got pretty darn close. The Monarchs' 95 points is a new Finals record. Expect the Shock to apply more pressure defensively and bang harder in the paint as they use their muscle and athleticism in order to even the series."