The Shock Make the Sky Fall
The Shock shot 20-of-28 from the field (71.4 percent) in the second half, including 13 straight during one stretch that put them ahead for good. The Sky led 55-53 when the Shock made their last five field-goal attempts to close the third quarter on a 10-2 run. Detroit then finished off the Sky by making 10-of-12 from the field in the fourth.
The Shock scored a WNBA-record 72 points in the second half in a Sunday win over Phoenix.
“Kind of seems to be our M.O.,” Shock head coach Bill Laimbeer said of his team’s second-half prowess. “I think we just wanted to win the game. We concentrated a little bit more, we found some seams against their zone. We passed well in the second half and made some shots.”
Forward Swin Cash led five Shock players in double figures with 20 points. Plenette Pierson recorded her second-straight double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds and Cheryl Ford tallied her team-high sixth double-double with 10 points, 10 rebounds and five assists.
Deanna Nolan, who had 18 points and a team-high seven assists, said the key was solving Chicago’s zone defense, which frustrated the Shock in the early going. “They were playing a zone most of the game, so we were trying to force passes that weren’t there. Just hadn’t settled down. The opening of the zone is in the middle, and that’s what got us our shots,” Nolan said, describing the team’s second-half improvement. “Just taking our time, finding the open man, especially when the ball gets in the middle. Once the ball gets in the middle it opens up the outside and vice versa.
Katie Smith led the Shock with four 3-pointers and finished with 14 points. The Shock also had only 12 turnovers, their lowest total of the season in a category they have been struggled to keep down.
It was an uneven first half for the Shock, which trailed 11-2, went on an 8-0 run and ended up tied at 20 after the first quarter. “I’d like to see us have a better first half, a better start,” said Laimbeer, who also saw his team fall behind by 11 in the first quarter against Phoenix. “It was a bad start again. I’d like to see us play a little bit better, solid basketball for the entire 40 minutes.”
Laimbeer inserted Kara Braxton back into starting lineup after a one-game benching. Though Braxton did little early, she, like her teammates, picked up steam later on, finishing with eight points on 4-of-5 from the field in 11 minutes. She scored twice to open the third quarter, turning Detroit’s 41-40 halftime deficit into a 44-43 lead. Despite limited action, it was Braxton’s best performance in nearly three weeks. “I thought the first half she was very nervous because of all the pressure that was on her,” said Laimbeer, who said he would stick with this lineup for Thursday’s game, also against Chicago. “But in the second half she came and she played well.”
After losing fourth-quarter leads in July home losses to San Antonio and New York, the Shock let the Sky get no closer than six points, another sign that Detroit might be breaking out of its recent funk. After struggling to reach 20 points in a quarter, the Shock have reached or passed that mark for seven straight quarters. They have also won two straight after dropping four of five. “Yeah, it’s getting back on track but we still have knick and knacks we have to clean up,” Nolan said.
The Sky (8-11), which has now lost six of its last eight, will now try to hold serve at the University of Illinois-Chicago Pavilion on Thursday night. “They’re vastly improved,” Laimbeer said of the Sky, which won just five games in its first season of existence in 2006. “They have better personnel. They want to play more for this coach than they did for the last coach, so I think you see a little bit better bounce in their step, especially this time of year. Last year they were pretty dejected, this time they think they can win games. They play very hard and that’s what I warned our team before the game. They only know how to play hard.”
Thursday’s contest will be the Shock’s last before the All-Star break. The coaching staff and three All-Star starters – Braxton, Ford, and Nolan -- will travel directly from Chicago to Washington D.C. for the All-Star weekend festivities.