Liberty first team to defeat Shock twice in ’07 – playoff meeting next?

A Thorn In Their Side

Shock 84, Liberty 85Player of the Game
August 12, 2007
Madison Square Garden
New York, NY
Who was the player of the game vs. the Liberty?
Who was the player of the game vs. the Liberty?
View Results
(DET) D. Nolan, 19
(NYL) T. Jackson, 16
(DET) K. Feenstra, 13
(NYL) T. Jackson, 6
(DET) Two Tied, 3
(NYL) S. Christon, 5
(DET) K. Feenstra, 2
(NYL) Three Tied, 1
Now that the Detroit Shock have wrapped up home-court advantage throughout the playoffs – by virtue of their Saturday afternoon victory over Indiana – head coach Bill Laimbeer has the luxury to shake up his player rotation and try some unorthodox lineups. Doing so, however, can bear unconventional results – like a shootout with the WNBA's lowest-scoring team.

That was the case Sunday afternoon in New York, where Liberty guard Erin Thorn’s floater from the right side dropped the Shock at the buzzer, 85-84. Detroit had led by as many as 13 points. A jumper by guard Deanna Nolan, who had a team-high 19 points, gave Detroit an 84-78 lead with 2:12 to play. The Liberty closed out the game on a 7-0 run.

"The Liberty made a couple of key shots down the stretch,” Laimbeer said. “If we came up with the ball after one of those rebounds, the game was over. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen. The biggest downfall for our ball club was the technical fouls called against us, and we shot no free throws in the second half."

The Shock outscored New York in the paint, 46-26, as Detroit had their way inside. Center Katie Feenstra had 16 points on 6-of-8 shooting and 13 rebounds, Kara Braxton added 13 points and Plenette Pierson tallied 12. The Liberty countered by knocking down 11 triples, three each by Thorn and guard Loree Moore. New York made five 3-pointers in the first quarter to lead, 32-38.

"We tried to get substitutions early in the first quarter,” Laimbeer said. “The purpose of today’s game was to go out there and have fun. We still wanted to play hard regardless of winning or losing it made no difference. We were able to get some players some time and try some different things."

Detroit did not lead until late in the second quarter, when Thorn and Moore each drained triples before halftime to tie the game at 49-all. It was the most points the Liberty have scored in a half all season. The Liberty average a league-low 71.0 points per game, but six players reached double-figures, led by rookie forward Tiffany Jackson’s 16 points.

Some things never seem to change with the Shock, regardless of which players are on the floor. They stormed ahead with a 15-2 run to open the third quarter. New York cut it to 68-64 by the start of the fourth quarter and got within a point, 77-76, when Moore hit her third 3-pointer with five minutes left. She finished with 11 points.

One day after playing all 40 minutes against Indiana, Nolan played 32 and Katie Smith played 28 – still a lot, but below their season average (35 mpg). In their stead, Elaine Powell played nearly 28 minutes but committed half of Detroit’s 12 turnovers. Ivory Latta did not start Sunday – as she had against Indiana – but shot 2-for-9 from the field in 20 minutes of action.

Already missing Cheryl Ford, The Shock were also without forward Swin Cash, who stayed in Detroit to rest her ailing back. But regardless of the circumstances or lineups, the fact remains: New York has a pair of one-point victories over the Shock in 2007. The Liberty are now the only Eastern Conference team that can claim a season-series tie with the Shock (2-2), and the only team in the league, thus far, to defeat Detroit twice. (Indiana will have a chance to add that distinction Aug. 19.) It would seem that ignorance is bliss for the inexperienced Liberty as they have shown no fear going toe-to-toe with the defending champions.

The Shock fall to 25-7, while the Liberty improve to 13-18, gaining ground on Washington (14-16) for the fourth and final playoff bid in the East. If New York can make a late surge and Washington stumbles, Sunday’s contest illustrated how interesting this first-round matchup could be.