Game 2 - Post-Game Analysis
DETROIT, Sept. 1 -- The Detroit Shock came back from a 11-point deficit to tie the 2006 WNBA Finals at one game apiece as the series heads to Sacramento. With improved energy and some hot second-half shooting, the Shock have grabbed the momentum, but they are heading to one of the toughest buildings to visit in the WNBA. After the game, we asked the experts in the building for their take on Game 2 and what to expect in Game 3 Sunday (4:30 pm ET, ESPN 2):
What happened: "The main thing Detroit did tonight was to keep playing. They had reasons to be frustrated, they were down nine points at half, they were still turning the ball over but they did not give up. Deanna Nolan started the game 3-for-10. But Bill Laimbeer was imploring her to shoot the ball even if she started 0-for-8. She kind of fought him on that, but she kept shooting and finished with 21 points. Katie Smith scored 16 second half points after getting blanked in the first half. They just made key buckets. She kept competing as her teammates fought for rebounds and loose balls. You also cannot say enough about Swin Cash. She had only two points in the second half after a strong first half, but her energy was great. She was all over the place on the floor and was just a factor from beginning to end.
"Sacramento had a nine-point lead and extended that to an 11-point lead, but you could tell that Yolanda Griffith was not happy. She is not typically a smiley player anyway, but they were turning the ball over and never looked entirely comfortable. In talking with John Whisenant, the thing they were doing well prior to Game 2, where they had not yet lost a game in the Playoffs, their defensive philosophy makes it look like the other team is quitting. They do not allow teams to get comfortable with what they want to do. Detroit, more than anything else, did not let that defeat them tonight. They kept competing and evened the series up at one game apiece.
What now: "I expect Sacramento to take care of the basketball a lot better than they did in Game 2. Kara Lawson will make her shots, Nicole Powell will make their shots and Yolanda Griffith will play better than she did in the second half of the second game. Detroit feels that it can win the series now and that might not have been the case after Game 1. I do not think that the Monarchs can play much better than they did during Game 1 of the series. Of course, I said that in the Houston series, but they did anyway. With their crowd and their defense, all the Monarchs need to focus on is limiting their turnovers.
"Detroit has to feel good about the fact that they can still play a lot better than we've seen. They are a 'Jekyll-and-Hyde' team capable of having great stretches and bad stretches. A lot was made of what was said between Laimbeer and his players during Game 1, but that is who they are. They are not going to change that and start giving each other hugs. We shouldn't buy too much into that. Expect Detroit to get back to its basics on the road and play with focus. If they do that, it bodes well for this series."
What happened: "A lot of things changed for Detroit. I thought they competed, which was by far the most important thing. In spots, their most savvy and most experienced player, Katie Smith, carried them. Clearly, they went through her offensively for a stretch of time that got them over a big hump. That three at the end of the third quarter was huge and there was never a doubt in my mind that Katie Smith was going to be the one to shoot that basketball. She backed Kara Lawson down. She really tested Lawson defensively and Lawson did not do a good job. I guarantee you that Kara will watch tons of film and try to make corrections.
"Nolan, Cash and Smith test your ability to guard when they're focused and aggressive. Several times, we heard Bill Laimbeer imploring Deanna Nolan to just try to be aggressive. He said, 'I don't care if you miss 10 shots in a row. Just be aggressive.' And what he meant by that is exactly what you saw from Swin Cash early on. Swin missed her first two shots, but she let Sacramento know 'I'm here to play. You've got to come with it.'
"You've got to look the opponent in the eye and say, 'We're here and if you want to win, you've got to take it from us, because we're not gonna give it to you.' And I thought that Detroit, more than anything, sent a message to Sacramento that they better respond.
What now: "Detroit lost homecourt, but they drew a line in the sand today and said, 'OK Sacramento, it's your turn to respond.' The last time Sacramento lost at home in the playoffs was 2001. So I expect it to be a dogfight. If Detroit thought they needed energy in this building to beat them, they're gonna need even more of it out there.
"The most important thing they learned to night is the distinction Bill Laimbeer has been trying to teach them: It's a different thing coming to play and coming to win. Tonight, they came to win."
What happened: "The second half was totally different for Detroit. They were plus-eight on the boards. They shot a higher percentage. They beat Sacramento's white-line defense over the top.
"I thought Bill Laimbeer made a lot of really crucial adjustments. They overloaded one side and they also set weak-side screens for Katie Smith off that high flare. They cleared out that bottom player which allowed her to catch and shoot or dribble baseline and shoot.
"Their defense was energized and that to me was the biggest difference in the game. Their defense stepped up and I didn't see that for a game and a half.
"Let's face it: During the regular season, Sacramento shot just 34 percent from three-point range and if you're going to give something up, it's going to be those shots, but you still want to contest them. On Wednesday, Detroit caught Sacramento on a night when they were just lights out and setting WNBA records. I think they made a concerted effort tonight to make Sacramento earn it and not get 30 points off of threes. They finally looked like the second best defense in the league.
What now: "I expect the Monarchs to play a lot better for a full game. I thought they lost some of their focus and their edge in the second half. Detroit's got momentum, but it's hard to win in Sacramento. They have to build on tonight. Swin Cash had a heck of a game coming off of her poor performance in Game 1."
What happened: "The outside shooting for Sacramento was non-existent because of Detroit's pressure defense on the perimeter. Defensively, in the second half, Detroit took the defender of the big that got the ball at the top and dropped her down to double Yolanda Griffith. And Sacramento continued to try to force the pass instead of taking the foul-line jumper. So that really hurt them and I don't think that they read the defense really well.
"Give Detroit credit for making the changes. Also, Sacramento wasn't able to spot up as quickly as they did the other night and so they were looking for everything down low. And then Detroit out-rebounded them 18-10 in the second half. That was huge. Also, they took better care of the basketball.
"Detroit came out in the beginning of the game with a lot more intensity. They were pushing the ball, forcing Sacramento to get back on the defensive end and not allowing them to get set up in their white-line defense. A lot of what they did in the second half had to with their defensive stops, but they were also hitting shots.
"Elaine Powell was big for them in the first half and then Braxton and Pierson played really well in the second half. Sacramento's bench was a big difference in the first half, but they were not in the second.
What now: "You gotta give the edge to Sacramento. They're the defending champs. They're good at home. They beat Detroit there by 33 this season. They've got to make some adjustments defensively though. John Whisenant said coming into this game that he fealt that their defense was not as good in Game 1 as he would have hoped. So they've got to match the intensity that Detroit brings."
What happened: "This was a completely different Detroit Shock team. The team Wednesday just seemed very lackadaisical. I don't want to use the word 'lazy', but they weren't getting loose balls and rebounds and those are really the trademark of this Shock team. They're a blue-collar team and we didn't see that on Wednesday.
"Tonight, in the second half especially, they looked like the Detroit Shock team that everyone expected to be here in the Finals. Katie Smith had zero points in the first half and strung together nine in the third quarter, almost single-handedly igniting this team. Swin Cash came out very aggressive. She knew she had to make up for that game on Wednesday night.
"Transition is one of their strengths and they went away from that on Wednesday. Swin Cash told me that she wanted to come out and be more aggressive ... and she was. From the very beginning, she was going to the basket. She wasn't finishing, but she was making the defense work and making her presence felt on the offensive end.
"On Wednesday night, Sacramento was on fire. Those kind of nights are magical and they're rare. I don't think they expected to come out and have that kind of shooting night again. They did a good job on the boards tonight. They were up 10 on rebounds at the half. Detroit just turned it up a notch, found a way to get to the glass and ended up closing the gap to two by the end of the game. I don't know that it was Sacramento playing poorly as much as that Detroit really played well."