Shock 67, Sky 71

Pain, and Davis-Cain

Chicago – Tenae-Davis Cain described her first week as a professional athlete as “definitely intense.” But she didn’t let the stress show, scoring a team-high 14 points as the Shock dropped their preseason opener in Chicago Friday, 71-67.

“I had a little bit (of nerves), you just got to come out and play no matter,” said Davis-Cain, who made five of eight shots. “I’m kind of nervous coming in but after a while, this is what I’ve been doing all my life, so just come out and play.”

Davis-Cain hit back-to-back jumpers in the fourth, including Detroit’s only 3-pointer of the second half, to bring Detroit within six after falling behind by 20 in the third. She also tied Alexis Hornbuckle for the team-high with four steals.

“We knew she could shoot, whether she can have presence in the game to get her shots off and see how she plays her overall game,” is still under scrutiny, said head coach Bill Laimbeer. “Yeah, she can shoot, she can score like that but there are other parts of the game too we’re examining.”

Drafted 37th overall out of Florida State in the April draft, Davis-Cain is in a tight battle to make the final 11-player roster, but right now she’s just concerned with “trying to remember all the plays and trying to fit in with the veterans,” she said. “It’s been a real intense week for me.”

Missing five players, the shorthanded Shock got through the contest without additional injuries, but their play was pretty painful. They committed 20 turnovers, leading to 17 Chicago points, and were under 50 percent from the foul line much of the night before finishing at 58.3 percent (21-of-36). That gives Laimbeer plenty to work on between now and May 27, when these teams will meet again for a second preseason game at The Palace. “Yeah, knowing the plays,” he said. “We had a lot of times when people were in the wrong spots.”

“Turnovers, we knew we were going to turn the ball over, but not the dumb ones that we had. Free-throw shooting, we were terrible at the free-throw line but I think offensive execution [and] a little bit more defensive smartness we’re going to try to put in for the next three days.”

Unlike a year ago when teams had several weeks before preseason games began, the Shock competed just six days after assembling for the first time. And while the Sky had same lineup they had on opening day a year ago, the Shock had just one full-time starter, Katie Smith.

First-round pick Shavonte Zellous started alongside Hornbuckle in the backcourt, with Smith at small forward and Kristen Rasmuseen in the post with Kara Braxton, who had two shots on the game’s opening possession but couldn’t convert. Braxton was 1-for-5 in the first four minutes, finishing with seven points and eight rebounds. “I thought Kara came out and played really hard,” Laimbeer said. “It didn’t show on the stat line but she was very active. That was a big positive.”

Zellous had eight points in her debut and Olayinka Sanni also scored seven, followed by Smith, Rasmussen, Britney Miller and Sequoia Holmes, who all had six points.

The Shock had more turnovers (eight) than field goals (six) in the first quarter, but trailed only 18-16. They recovered from a 9-1 Chicago run earlier in the quarter to tie the game at 14 on a jumper from the top of the key by Davis-Cain.

Kristi Toliver, the No. 3 pick in the April draft, ended the first half with Chicago’s first 3-pointer, boosting the Sky’s lead to 38-30. By halftime the teams had combined for as many field goals as turnovers, 25 apiece.

Without top post defenders Cheryl Ford, Taj McWilliams-Franklin and Plenette Pierson, Detroit was outscored in the paint, 32-18. Already with 12 points at halftime, Sky center Sylvia Fowles scored Chicago’s first five points of the third quarter to build a 43-30 lead, which Chicago pushed to 54-34.

Fowles scored all of her game-high 21 points by end of the third, finishing 6-for-6 from the floor and 9-of-14 from the foul line. The No. 2 pick in last year’s draft, Fowles played in only 17 games after suffering a left knee sprain. A healthy Fowles could make Chicago, entering its fourth season, as tough as it has ever been.

AfterShocks: Kristen Haynie (quadriceps), Ford (knee), McWilliams-Franklin (foot), Pierson (knee) and Deanna Nolan (shoulder) missed the game with injuries. Ten months to the day Ford tore her left anterior cruciate ligament, the Shock captain participated in pregame shootaround and sat on the bench in uniform.