The Detroit Shock huddle up during their first practice of the Finals on Thursday.
D. Clarke Evans/NBAE/Getty Images
SAN ANTONIO, October 2, 2008 - Before the Detroit Shock took to the floor for their first practice of the Finals, they met with the media to discuss their Game 1 victory as well as their preparations for Game 2.
As much as home-court advantage was discussed prior to the series, the Shock took that topic off of the table by stealing it from San Antonio and handing the Silver Stars just their fourth home loss of the season in Game 1.
It’s well documented that Shock coach Bill Laimbeer is not a fan of discussing his strategies with the media, despite our best efforts. So while his adjustments for Game 2 and what he expects from San Antonio were off limits, he and his players were willing to discuss a number of topics.
NO REST FOR THE BACKCOURT
Detroit’s Deanna Nolan and Katie Smith both played every second of Game 1 and are prepared to do the same tomorrow night in Game 2. In Detroit’s seven playoff games, Nolan is averaging a 39.4 minutes per game, which is tops in the league. Smith is not too far behind at 34.0 minutes per game.
“Deanna Nolan is a bionic so she can play forever,” said Laimbeer. “Katie Smith is a little bit different. Smith wills herself to play that hard for that long and her workout routine both in the offseason and during the season is second to none that I’ve seen of any athlete, whether it's male or female, in basketball.”
If the Finals series is extended to a fourth game, the Shock will have played six games in nine days in three different cities. Laimbeer admits some concern of player fatigue but tries to keep it a mute issue among the team.
“As coaches we’ve talked about that, but we don’t tell the players that, so they don’t know any different,” he said. “They just know that we’ve got another game, let’s go play. Nolan and Smith expect to play 40 minutes, Taj will play her 30 plus minutes; they don’t know any different and they don’t care to know any different, so we don’t bring it up.”
NO REST FOR THE TRAINER EITHER
Shock trainer Laura Ramus has been an extremely busy woman throughout this season and especially during the playoffs. While she laughs off suggestions that she is the MVP of the team, her role in the Shock’s success can’t be overlooked.
Ramus has been working non-stop to try to get sixth woman Plenette Pierson ready to play after Pierson suffered a tear to her labrum in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
“The injuries, especially to Plenette, have added onto the already busy days we have during a playoff run. We’re working soft tissue, trying to get recovery,” she said. “ And the added effort of playing at EMU [Eastern Michigan University – the site of Games 2 and 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals and Game 3 of the Finals] and having to transport an entire medical staff there, it’s been fatiguing.
“But the fact is I didn’t care if I didn’t sleep for 48 hours, because I was on my way to San Antonio. I can sleep after Oct. 10.”
Ramus is comfortable with where her team stands health-wise at this point, with the exception of Pierson, whose availability for Game 2 is still unknown. After playing in Games 2 and 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals, Pierson was unable to go in Game 1 of the Finals.
“I feel good about where we are,” she said. “The only question mark out there, knock on wood, is Plenette. When will she be back and how effective will she be? That’s up in the air. But everyone else is doing well. We’ve been through this before and we know how to take care of our bodies.”
EARLY WAKE-UP CALL FOR TAJ
Taj McWilliams-Franklin makes her home in San Antonio, so despite being on the road she has the benefit of sleeping in her own bed at night. That is until she got kicked in the ribs at 6 a.m. by her five-year-old daughter, Maia, the morning of Game 1.
“She woke me up at 6 a.m. talking about doing her hair and I wasn’t real happy,” she said. “She was my alarm clock. Sadly she slept with me and kicked me in the ribs a couple times, but it got me ready for the game.”
While the early wake-up call may not have been pleasant, the reason for it definitely was.
“I took my daughter to school for the first time yesterday,” McWilliams-Franklin said with a smile. “She’s in kindergarten. I got to take her to school and she introduced me to the teacher and all 12 kids in the class that I can’t remember all of their names.”
Getting up extra early didn’t seem to have any ill effects on her play either, as McWilliams-Franklin scored 23 points to help lead the Shock to their Game 1 win. Maybe Maia should wake her mom up early tomorrow as well.
PIERSON INJURY UPDATE
Neither Laimbeer, nor Ramus, nor Pierson herself knows if she will be ready to play in Game 2 of the Finals. She will once again be listed as a game-time decision and that is just what it came down to prior to Game 1.
“I was in the locker room with my uniform on and 10 minutes before coach came in to write the game plan on the board, that’s when I decided that I wasn’t comfortable enough to go out there and play,” she said. “We’re here in the Finals, and you try to put all of the injuries behind, but knowing that I’m not 100 percent, I didn’t want to get out there and hurt my team more than I could help my team. I felt it was better for me just to make the decision to sit this one out and get another day of rest.”
Despite not being able to contribute her usual spark off the bench for Detroit, Pierson has found a way to help her team from the bench.
“There’s a lot I can do from the bench,” she said. “Cheryl [Ford] and I have both been doing it since we’ve both been out. You just get a different perspective on the game when you’re sitting over here on the sidelines and you’re not playing. You get to see a whole lot more.
“We try to help the post players out with seeing how the defense is playing or what they need to do on defense, or maybe even helping the guards out saying that the post players are doing this and their running off picks and maybe they’re going to be late. There’s a lot we can do. We’re kind of like player-coaches over here.”
OPPORTUNITY TO SEIZE CONTROL
While winning Game 1 allowed Detroit to steal the home-court advantage away from San Antonio, a win in Game 2 could deliver a knockout blow. If the Shock can find a way to steal Game 2, they will take a 2-0 series lead back to Detroit for Games 3 and 4 and need only one win to claim the championship.
“It would be huge if we could come out here and steal another one,” said Smith. “It’s going to be hard. I have a feeling their energy is going to be 10 times what it was the other night. It would mean a lot to get it, but if not it’s not the end of the world. For me, I just look at it as a one-game deal. I’m not looking toward going home or looking at three more or whatever. It’s Friday night, 40 minutes, let’s get it done.”
ADJUSTMENTS FOR GAME 2
The Shock did a great job of limiting San Antonio’s Becky Hammon in Game 1 and will try to do so again tomorrow night. They expect her to come out more aggressive, but still want to make it as difficult as possible to get her points.
“Can we make her earn everything? Yeah, I hope so,” said Smith. “Will she make more shots, will she be a little bit more persistent, will she try to get out in transition a little bit more? Probably.
“I don’t think we’ll probably hold her to 10 points, I just hope that we make her earn it. If she gets 20 points and she hits tough shots, by all means, Becky’s a great player. So, I just hope we make her work for everything she gets and we don’t give her easy things by just forgetting about her or not helping on a pick or whatnot.”
When the Silver Stars made their run in Game 1, it was triggered by Detroit missing shots and San Antonio getting out in transition and getting easier looks at the basket. Nolan said limiting San Antonio’s transition opportunities and controlling the boards will be key in Game 2.
“I think we did a great job of keeping them off of the glass yesterday,” she said. “Second shots, third shots, that’s what they are used to doing. I also thought we did a great job in transition and we have to keep that. We think they are going to look to push the ball more in transition and we just have to slow that down.”