The difference at Arco Arena from those prior wins in Atlanta and Indiana is that Deanna Nolan and Katie Smith, the team’s leading scorers in 2007, finally scored in double figures on the same night – and by quite a bit.
Smith scored 30 points and Nolan dropped 24 on a combined 22-of-44 shooting night from the floor. The two gunslingers had 11 field goals apiece. “Those were two amazing performances,” Monarchs coach Jenny Boucek said. “They just put on a show. It wasn’t a lot of mistakes made, it was just them being on fire.”
Smith was 7-of-12 from long range, tying the franchise record for 3-pointers in a game. The most recent Shock player to do it was Shannon Johnson during last season’s West Coast road trip, at Phoenix.
Coming off a 33-point game two nights earlier, Smith scored 15 of Detroit’s 25 points in the first quarter, giving the Shock (7-1) a four-point lead. “They were doing a great job of finding me when I was open,” Smith said of her teammates. “You just have to step up and shoot and hopefully knock them down and so far I’ve been hitting them pretty well.”
The Shock weathered a balanced effort from Sacramento (2-4) in the first half. The Monarchs shot 61.3 percent from the floor and had seven players with five points or more, led by rookie Crystal Kelly’s eight points; this despite averaging the fewest assists in the WNBA and playing without starting point guard Ticha Penicheiro. A 12-0 run by the Monarchs propelled them to their biggest lead, 41-33. The Shock halved that deficit by halftime, 48-44. Sacramento scored only 22 points in the second half, and Detroit’s defense sent the Monarchs’ shooting percentage plummeting to 44.4 percent.
“When we want to play defense we are very good,” Shock head coach Bill Laimbeer said. “The first half we were just playing basketball, we weren’t playing defense. We talked a lot about that during halftime and when you come back out with a defensive effort you’ll get a win.”
Detroit regained the lead late in the third quarter on a Smith triple, 57-56, and entered the fourth ahead by two. Then Nolan got on a roll, twice pushing the lead to eight points on jumpers before delivering a 3-point dagger that made it 78-66 with less than three minutes to play.
“That’s what makes Nolan so hard to guard,” Monarchs guard Kara Lawson said. “Even if you are right there she has ability like no one else in the women’s game, she can elevate right over you.”
Nolan also distributed a season-high nine assists, two shy of her career best. Never among the WNBA’s top 10 in assists, Nolan is currently third, averaging better than 6.0 assists per game.
During Detroit’s current six-game win streak, Nolan scored 33 while Smith had only one field goal in the comeback at Atlanta. Smith rebounded from a short slump with a team-high 19 at Indiana, where Nolan shot 2-of-10 for six points. The timing couldn’t be better for Smith and Nolan to both get hot, as Saturday is the second game of Detroit’s four-game West Coast swing, which doesn’t end until next Saturday at Phoenix.
The Shock play today at Seattle, the team Smith scorched for 33 on Wednesday.