Smith Reaches 6,000 Points
Ayana Walker, a 2002 second-round Shock draft pick who spent four seasons with Detroit, was signed Thursday – and started. The player Walker replaced on the roster, Tausha Mills, moved over a few seats to the scorer's table – where she did color commentary for play-by-play man Matt Shepard on the Shock radio broadcast.
With player movement like that, the outcome shouldn’t be too surprising. The last-place Lynx (9-24) pounced on the shorthanded Shock and led virtually wire-to-wire for an 87-77 victory.
Since clinching the WNBA's best record on Aug. 11, the Shock (24-9) have lost three straight games, tying their longest losing streak of the year (June 29-July 6). The Shock close the regular season at Indiana, where they can still tie the franchise record of 25 wins set in 2003. Otherwise, they head into the playoffs with a season-long losing streak.
Shock head coach Bill Laimbeer had few options Thursday, missing Kara Braxton (WNBA suspension), Swin Cash (back), Cheryl Ford (knee) and Pee Wee Johnson (knee). Cash and Johnson were held out for precautionary reasons, while Braxton will return to action in the regular-season finale Sunday.
Those who did play produced. Ivory Latta scored 15 points in 29 minutes, both career highs, while Katie Feenstra and Plenette Pierson each had 14 points and 10 rebounds for Detroit's paper-thin frontcourt. Walker, who had not played in the WNBA this season, has career averages of 1.8 points and 1.2 rebounds. The 6-foot-3 forward picked up three fouls in the first quarter and fouled out with three points in 25 minutes.
Minnesota doubled up Detroit, 33-16, early in the second quarter. The Shock cut it to 49-43 at halftime, but never made a serious run in the second half. Second-year guard Seimone Augustus, who has been averaging a league-high 24.9 points in her last 10 games, scored 19 for Minnesota. The game belonged to forward Svetlana Abrosimova, who had 25 points, seven rebounds and seven assists. Five of her seven field goals were 3-pointers.
The game's most memorable moment came late in the third quarter, when Shock guard Katie Smith made the back end of a pair of free throws to score her 6,000 career point. Smith, the most prolific scorer in U.S. women's professional basketball (WNBA and ABL points combined), is the first to reach that milestone. She is followed by Lisa Leslie (5,412 points).
Laimbeer called a timeout for Smith, who played her first six and a half WNBA seasons in Minnesota before a 2005 midseason trade to Detroit, and was honored with a standing ovation by the Lynx crowd.
The rest of the drama Thursday was in Washington, D.C., where the Mystics could have secured the final playoff spot in the East and a first-round date with the Shock. Instead, the New York Liberty put themselves in control of their own destiny, forcing the Shock to wait until the season ends to know where they will open the postseason on Friday, Aug. 24.
The Liberty pulled off yet another gutsy win, winning on the road, 73-72, on a Shameka Christon free throw with nine seconds left. The Liberty and Mystics traded buckets the last five minutes – neither team led by more than two points in the final 5:03 – after the Liberty took a 39-33 halftime lead.
New York (14-18) won the season series with Washington, 3-1, which means the Liberty will get the fourth spot if they win their final two games, both at home, against Connecticut and Chicago. The Mystics (15-18) must win its final game Sunday at Connecticut, or New York only has to split its final two.
AfterShocks: Mills was being more than gracious by staying with the team after her seven-day contract was not renewed. The Shock have enough room under the salary cap to bring back Mills, and possibly sign another player, if Laimbeer feels compelled to do so before the playoffs begin.