Shock and Monarchs players ready to leave it all on the court for Game 5
Practice Notebook: September 8, 2006
By Andrew Pearson, WNBA.com
September 8, 2006---Four games into this best-of-five championship series between Detroit and Sacramento and many are still left trying to answer the same question - which will be the team to show up for a full 40 minutes?
Maybe more importantly, how will each team be trying to ensure that the effort and energy is there come 3:30 Eastern Time on Saturday?
Surely Smith has had very few regrets in the series, as she has been the catalyst in the Shock's two victories, notching 16 points in Game 2 and a game-high 22 points in Game 4. Prior to Game 4, Laimbeer had said that it would be the guard play that dicated the Shock's success. One can only imagine that it will once again be the deciding factor in Game 5.
"Most of us are of course not taking it for granted being able to get here again," said Deanna Nolan. "But at the same time, we're coming in with the energy and understanding of letting the game come to us. You don't want to force things, thinking you have to do so much when you have other people around you, especially with our team because all these other players on our team are capable of scoring."
Through the first four games of this series, momentum has seemingly been a non-factor. Following Game 1, the prevailing thought was that Sacramento would dispatch of Detroit rather quickly. Twenty point losses factor in heavily when it comes to perception of a team's ability to bounce back and win. But bounce back Detroit did, showing the resiliency that they have become known for as the season has gone along. However, whatever confidence that seemed to be evident after Game 2 was crushed by a Monarchs team on a mission to make sure that the series would not return to Detroit. Another 20-plus point loss and more thoughts that the series would be closed out at Arco. Once again, Detroit would have none of it, playing its best game of the series to ensure one more game, the first Game 5 in WNBA Finals history. Keep in mind, though that no team has ever clinched the WNBA Finals on the opponents' home court. However, the Monarchs had never lost at Arco in the playoffs under Coach John Whisenant.
"That is another reason it is advantage Shock," said Whisenant. "You know it is only a matter of time before it happens. Will tomorrow be the night that we break that streak?"
With no game thus far having been decided by less than 10 points, and with three of the four games essentially over by the beginning of the fourth quarter, which team will put together back-to-back big-time performances?
"I think I feel a little momentum has swung our way just because the atmosphere around here among my teammates, you just feel a little more energized, a little more focused on the task at hand, which is winning the championship," said Nolan.
After 34 regular season games and countless playoff games, all the Shock and Monarchs' players know what needs to be done on the court. For both Detroit and Sacramento, it would seem now to come down to what lies between the ears.
"This is really the last game," said Jacqueline Batteast of the Shock. "We know after this game the season is over, so I think we'll all have the mindset to come out with some energy."
"This is the championship game," said the Monarchs' Erin Buescher. "Just as a competitor, forget it being your job, just as an athlete and just for sport, this is the big night everyone always talks and dreams about. This is it. If you can't match up the energy, there is something wrong, you need to look inside because this is where the competition is at its highest."
With Game 5 less than 24 hours away, the stakes couldn't be higher. Forty minutes will decide who can enjoy their offseason and who will want to hit the court the next day to try and get that bad taste of losing out of her mouth. Shock or Monarchs? It's anybody's guess.