Sun Sizzle, Shock Fizzle
Two nights after talking about restoring their reputation as a defensive team with a win over Minnesota, the Shock surrendered some of their ugliest numbers of the season. The Shock gave up 14 offensive rebounds to the Sun while forcing just five turnovers, none before halftime. Both were season marks for a Shock opponent - by a team that had lost its third straight game just the night before in Chicago.
“Connecticut came in her and basically hit us in the mouth, and showed it didn’t look like they played a back-to-back,” Shock coach Rick Mahorn said. “They just came here and executed and showed up defensively.”
Detroit’s defense was in disarray from the outset, surrendering 29 points in the first quarter, the most allowed by the Shock this season. The previous mark was 27, also by the Sun at The Palace July 5.
The Sun kept pouring it on in the second quarter for a 50-33 halftime lead. It was the most points Detroit had allowed in a first half since the season opener when the Sparks scored 51, negating the defensive strides the players felt they had made against the Lynx Friday.
“Oh yeah, especially coming out and just - kaput. No defense whatsoever,” Deanna Nolan said. “They had any shot they wanted to make.”
All-Star guard Lindsay Whalen had 17 points on 7-of-11 shooting in the first half for Connecticut. She opened the third quarter with five points on two shots to give the Sun a 55-35 lead that was never seriously threatened. Whalen finished with 22 points and fellow 2009 All-Star Asjha Jones added 20.
Nolan continued her strong weekend with 20 points to lead Detroit. (She had a team-high 22 Friday.) She was the only Shock player in double figures.
“We can’t have those lapses, especially when we’re trying to be a playoff team,” Nolan said. “We are defending champions but that doesn’t mean nothing. That was last season. This is a different season.”
As they did in Friday’s win over Minnesota, the Shock got to 10 points in a hurry, with Taj McWilliams making her first three shots. (She scored just once more, finishing with eight points and six rebounds.) Leading 10-4, the Shock had little to smile about the rest of the way.
The third meeting between these teams bore no resemblance to the prior two, in which the visiting team won in overtime. Detroit’s victory over Connecticut July 5 remains their only win in the East. They are now 1-8 in conference play, which makes Tuesday’s home contest against the Liberty critical to their postseason chances.
“It has a lot of significance because we’re 1-8 against the East,” Mahorn said. “If we’re trying to make the playoffs, if we’re in a tie, we’ll lose on a tiebreaker because they’re going to use games against the teams in the East. We just got to take care of our own business and not worry about anybody else.”
Record against conference foes is the second postseason tiebreaker after head-to-head records, and every other team in the East has at least five wins in the conference. Detroit (6-10) will likely have to win a postseason berth outright.
The win moves Connecticut (10-9) above .500 and back into the East’s top four, ahead of idle Atlanta and Chicago (both 10-10).