What happened: Detroit obviously isn't opposed to getting out in transition, and when they're able to ram it down their opponents' throats and dominate with their rebounding, they're really playing Detroit basketball. They didn't settle for perimeter jump shots and they played to their strength, pounding the ball in low to Katie Feenstra and Kara Braxton. Braxton is maddeningly inconsistent, but when the Shock have to show up, they do. Tonight, Braxton saw that Cheryl Ford was out, and she really produced.
What's next: We saw some impatience from both Diana Taurasi and Cappie Pondexter. They just seemed a little too anxious to get the series started, and even though they want to play fast and shoot fast, it seemed like they were almost a little too fast. They're in their first Finals, their emotions and adrenaline are going, so maybe they were pressing a bit. The Mercury need to be more patient and more composed in Game 2. They're not going to fundamentally change who they are, but they have to find a way to counter 6-6 (Braxton) and 6-8 (Feenstra) in the paint.
What happened: Detroit just took care of things inside. I was surprised at their productivity, especially without Cheryl Ford. Plenette Pierson was relentless, Kara Braxton stepped up in a big way and Katie Feenstra was really efficient when she was out there. I'm a former post player, so I love it when the bigs get a lot of touches. And those three all really brought it tonight.
What's next: Phoenix has to feel pretty good losing by only eight with such a little contribution from Diana Taurasi. Their shooting was a little off, and they need to hit more of their threes to hang in there. Detroit has the momentum, and whether Cheryl Ford comes back or not, the Shock have to be feeling good about how their reserves stepped in. Detroit did what it was supposed to do: they kept the home court, and I'm sure that will be their focus again in Game 2. But I'm worried about the Mercury's defense and their inability to match up and pressure the Shock in the paint. If they decide to sink down to pressure the post, they'll leave Deanna Nolan and Katie Smith open for outside shots, and that could be deadly.
What happened: Detroit has incredible skill, will and desire. They're champions for a reason. And even though the score seemed to play to Phoenix's strength, the Shock have players who can run and shoot at that fast-paced level. When you get 29 points on second-chance opportunities, 15 offensive rebounds and Braxton, Pierson and Feenstra combine for 55 points and 29 rebounds, you're going to win a lot of games. I also thought that Katie Smith set the tone defensively. She is such a gamer and is so tough and just knows how to play in these situations. Whether it's making a key pass, setting a screen or playing lockdown defense, she'll contribute however she can.
What's next: It's a little scary to think that Detroit's frontcourt played the way it did tonight without Cheryl Ford! But I think Phoenix's struggles were an aberration, because how often is Diana going to have a night like this? Their starters have all had such great seasons, it's hard to imagine these problems continuing into Game 2. Cappie and Penny Taylor were both amazing, and if Diana can stay out of foul trouble, the Mercury will come back and have a great game.
What happened: I thought Detroit was tremendous defensively. Yeah, they gave up 100 points, but they made Phoenix earn those 100 points. They got Diana out of the flow right from the beginning. She's so key for them, so for her to only play 22 minutes is terrible news for the Mercury. You're not going to beat the world champions without your best player on the floor. And at the other end, the Shock got the ball down into the paint, where they were able to do most of their damage. They were also very successful against the Mercury zone, which has given other teams so many problems this season.
What's next: Phoenix won't be too upset with this loss. This is a series,
and all you want to do is steal one at home. They still have the chance to do
that on Saturday. Diana is going to bounce back. She'll have a better game.
And there's no way the Mercury commit 32 fouls again in Game 2. That's not their
game at all.
What happened: Detroit did a great job of getting the ball inside. Braxton and Feenstra played great and got offensive rebounds, put-backs and second shots. I really think the Mercury played pretty well despite Diana's quiet night. They played at their pace and moved the ball well in the second half.
What's next: Detroit has been here before. But most of Phoenix's players
haven't been to the Finals before. Now that the Mercury players have Game 1
under their belts, you'll probably see them a little more comfortable on Saturday
and focused on really playing the basketball they've been about all season long.
Their shooting was off in Game 1 and those days are going to happen, but keeping
Taurasi out of foul trouble is key. Keeping her on the court has to help them
at both ends.
What happened: Someone mentioned to me that Detroit has to feel great about the way it was able to play at Phoenix's pace. But I'm not sure I agree. Taurasi was clearly off tonight and Cappie Pondexter scored 27 points, but was 10-28 from the field, so I feel like they'll both get back on track, even here at the Palace. But Deanna Nolan and Katie Smith had off games as well, and Detroit was still able to pull out the win. They got a ton of production tonight from Pierson, the Sixth Woman of the Year, Braxton, the East's starting All-Star center, and Feenstra, who was a matchup nightmare for the Mercury.
What's next: All four of the perimeter stars are going to have bigger
games in Game 2. But will Penny Taylor produce another 32 points, nine rebounds
and seven dimes? Can Pierson and Braxton recreate their numbers from tonight?
I don't think you can count on that again on Saturday, but Ford might be back
to pitch in too (though she was limping noticeably after the game as she walked
off the court). Defensively, Phoenix has to make some major changes down low
if they want to stay in this series. It'll be on Paul Westhead to figure out
what they do in Game 2, but I question whether they have the bodies to hang
with the Detroit bigs.