Gutty performance bails out the Shock in Atlanta

Nolan to the Rescue

Deanna Nolan has played the first four games of this WNBA season with a sprained left ankle. After carrying the Detroit Shock to an 88-76 victory over the upstart Atlanta Dream Friday night, her back could use some ice, too.

Nolan had 33 points and eight assists, almost single handedly leading the Shock back from an 18-point deficit in the first half.

Nolan, who set a franchise record with 36 points against Connecticut on July 24, 2007, made 13 of 23 shots from the field. She outperformed the collective effort of Detroit’s four other starters, who could only muster 20 points on 7-of-22 shooting.

Trailing 45-32 at halftime, Nolan took over the game late in the third quarter. She hit a 3-pointer, then led a fast break finished off by Plenette Pierson to pull within three points. She tied the game at 61 with a layup and made it 63-all with a jumper to end the third.

After a go-ahead jumper in the fourth, Nolan drained another triple to put Detroit in control, 70-65, but left the game later with a hyperextended left elbow.

Detroit redeemed its 11-point second quarter by outscoring Atlanta, 56-31, in the second half.

“I think we came out in the second half and played a lot better than we showed in the first half,” Nolan said. “We knew they were going to come out…in their first home opener. We had 12 offensive rebounds in the first half. In the second half we played much harder on the defensive end.“

It was the Shock, not the Dream, that looked like an expansion franchise in the first half, especially early in the second quarter. The Dream, fueled by a sold-out crowd on hand for the team’s inaugural home game, opened the quarter on a 16-2 run, capitalizing on Detroit miscues. The Shock had more turnovers (nine) than assists (seven) in the first half.

“Well I thought in the first half we didn’t play well,” Shock head coach Bill Laimbeer said. “We gave up too many turnovers, too many offensive rebounds, we didn’t match their intensity. In the second half we played defense, got the offensive rebounds and that was the difference in the game.”

When Laimbeer called a timeout trailing, 40-23, guard Elaine Powell drew a technical foul on her way back to the bench. The veteran guard was ejected following her second technical foul at a fairly critical juncture in the game. The Shock led by five, 72-67, with 4:59 to play.

But Cheryl Ford’s three-point play with 4:06 left made it 77-70, Detroit’s biggest cushion since the opening minutes.

Olayinka Sanni, drafted with the No. 18 pick obtained from Atlanta in a trade for guard Ivory Latta, made three of her first four field goals to help Detroit grab an early 12-6 lead.

Camille Little’s three-point play gave the Dream its first lead at 19-18. Latta’s short bank shot beat the first-quarter buzzer and put Atlanta ahead, 24-21. It was her only made field goal, as the former Detroit guard shot 1-for-11, including 0-for-6 from 3-point range.

Dream forward Betty Lennox scored 17 of her team-high 21 points before halftime, and Erika Desouza had the game’s only double-double with 10 points and 18 rebounds.

Shock forward Katie Smith could do little right for the second straight game. Coming off a 1-for-7 shooting night against Indiana, Smith made only one of six shots for five points. She also had five fouls.

Smith, who has been encouraged to be more of a scorer after moving from the backcourt to the small forward spot, averaged 19.0 points on 45.8 percent shooting in the first two games, leading the Shock in scoring both times.

Rookie Alexis Hornbuckle (12 points) and Kara Braxton (11) were the only other scorers in double figures for Detroit. Braxton followed up her career high 22 points against the Fever with another strong outing, shooting 5-for-9 in 19 minutes.