Prelude to a Championship?
Indiana (21-13) now joins Detroit's first-round playoff opponent, New York, as the only teams to defeat the Shock twice this season. It is fourth straight season Detroit and Indiana have split their four regular-season meetings. The loss extended Detroit's longest losing streak of the season to four games, and denied them a chance to tie the franchise record for wins in a season.
“Nope," Shock head coach Bill Laimbeer replied when asked if the team had lost momentum going into the playoffs, which begin for the Shock on Friday in New York. "We didn’t put the horses out there. We worked very hard to get home court advantage. We want our players healthy and rested.”
The 3-ball turned out to be the difference as Tamika Whitmore's triple gave Indiana the lead for good, 58-57. Tan White's 3-pointer pushed it to 64-59 midway through the fourth quarter, and Whitmore followed with four more points to give the Fever its biggest lead, 68-61. Whitmore scored a game-high 18 points off the bench. Indiana was 7-of-20 from behind the arc, while Detroit was just 2-of-7.
Detroit's top reserve, Plenette Pierson, scored 11 of her team-high 13 points in the first half. Her three-point play in the last minute of the second quarter helped Detroit take a 35-33 halftime lead. Both teams shot an identical 38 percent (11-of-29) in the first half.
Shock guard Pee Wee Johnson also scored 13, but shot only 3-of-11 from the field. She did have five steals and was the only Shock player with more than one assist. Detroit had only 10 assists to 24 turnovers. Deanna Nolan and Katie Smith each played about 18 minutes – only half their season average of 35 – and each scored five points. Detroit's starting lineup combined for 19 points. Swin Cash did not play.
The influx of fresh faces on the Shock bench continued this weekend as the team brought back forward Tausha Mills and signed rookie guard/forward Tyresa Smith. The team also signed forward Ayana Walker Thursday. All three will remain on the Shock playoff roster, giving Laimbeer 13 players.
Mills was re-signed after her first seven-day contract expired last week. She started Sunday but was 0-for-5 from the field in 14 minutes. Walker, who fouled out in her first appearance Thursday, had four points on 2-of-2 shooting and two rebounds.
Smith played seven minutes, missing both of her field-goal attempts. Smith was drafted 18th overall by Phoenix but did not make the roster. She is the No. 2 on the career scoring list at the University of Delaware, where she averaged 19.8 points last season. The 6-footer was the Colonial Athletic Association Defensive Player of the Year.
“It was a good game tonight," said center Kara Braxton, who returned from a two-game suspension to play nearly 31 minutes, scoring 10 points. "Coach played a lot of bench players and rested the starters because everybody has to be ready for the playoffs.”