No. 1 Locked Down
The Shock trailed by 10 at halftime, led by 15 in the fourth quarter, and found themselves an Indiana 3-pointer away from overtime before finishing off the Fever, 74-69, at The Palace.
Shock guards Deanna Nolan and Katie Smith were responsible for more than their share of theatrics. Each played all 40 minutes and sparked the Shock’s 25-point turnaround in the second half. Nolan scored 14 of her game-high 26 points in the third quarter, including 11 straight during Detroit’s furious rally, in which they outscored Indiana, 28-9. The Fever made only two field goals in the quarter. A Nolan triple with 20 seconds left gave Detroit a 59-50 lead entering the fourth.
“She does her thing. She’s unstoppable when she gets in her zone,” Shock head coach Bill Laimbeer said. “She’s so fast, she can go around screens and get open on her own. You can’t bother her shot when she goes to shoot, so when she’s on like that, (we) just get her the ball as much as possible.”
Smith added 15 points and five assists, but more importantly provided the Shock with consistency and leadership in a volatile game that could have swung in either team’s favor at any point - and turn back just as quickly.
“I thought Katie Smith played a phenomenal second half,” Laimbeer said. “That’s one of the best basketball halves you’re going to see from a player. Didn’t mean she had to score 20 points, didn’t mean she had to grab 10, 15 rebounds. Her energy and her level of defense was everywhere. She guarded all five players, she rotated, she pushed the ball, she passed the ball, she shot the ball. She did everything in the second half.”
Indiana controlled the first-half tempo and exhibited how they are still a team to be contended with in the playoffs, even without Catchings. The WNBA All-Decade Team member suffered a left foot injury in the prior Detroit-Indiana meeting July 20. The Fever, who have clinched a playoff berth, are now 3-7 with the All-Star forward out of the lineup.
“I think they’re a good team,” Smith said. “They’ve got a lot of vets. … They have a lot talent. (Tan) White, who now with Catchings out is really kind of a go-to player for them. But they’re going to battle.”
White scored 11 of her 15 points in the game’s final five minutes - including three consecutive triples - to help cut Detroit’s 13-point lead to a single point, 70-69, with 41.2 seconds to play. “This game just gives us the opportunity to look at them and see what we have,” White said. “We might meet them again in the playoffs, who knows. This is the game that you look at your mistakes and try to build from that.” The Shock and Fever meet for the fourth time at Indianapolis Aug. 19, the last day of the regular season.
Shock guard Ivory Latta made her first professional start Saturday in the ABC-televised matchup, as Laimbeer said he was still considering options for his fifth starter in a Ford-less lineup. No stranger to national television, the former North Carolina guard drained the game’s first attempt - a 3-pointer - 20 seconds into the first quarter. There were few other bright moments in the first half. The Shock missed seven of their last eight shots in the first quarter and committed nine turnovers that led to 17 Indiana points. The Fever also had 10 offensive rebounds.
“We knew in the first half we were embarrassed on the rebounds,” Laimbeer said. “They had way too many offensive rebounds, and that was a big focal point of our team in the second half. All players had to go rebound. It was just energy and determination, it was all that necessary and we got it done.”
Nolan clearly got the message. She grabbed a season-high 10 rebounds, tallying the game’s only double-double. The Shock as a team dominated the glass after halftime, 27-7. “They were kicking our tail on offensive rebounds in the first half,” Nolan said. “The second half we had to go and get the rebound, put a body on somebody, compete and try to get the rebound and that’s what we did.”