Not a Minute Too Soon
Pierson scored Detroit’s last seven points to rally the Shock past the Los Angeles Sparks, 75-73, Sunday at The Palace.
Trailing 73-68 with 1:54 to play, the reserve forward led the Shock to their first lead of the game with 26.3 seconds left. Pierson’s go-ahead bucket, which turned out to be a three-point play after drawing foul on a drive from the right side of the lane, was set up by a Braxton defensive rebound.
“At that point, I knew we were going to have to do anything to get a lead,” Pierson said. “I’m known for the energy on the team, and by all means I tried to do whatever it took to get us some energy and it just happened to be by me scoring.”
“Plenette took them off the dibble all night long, that was really great,” Shock head coach Bill Laimbeer said. “The last play she made, the three-point play, was designed just for that. We called it for her to take the player off the dribble and it was a great move by her.”
While Pierson was scoring consistently most of the night, especially from the foul line (13-of-15 on free throws), for a game-high 21 points, Braxton had been mired in yet another sub-par performance.
Coming off a 15-point night Saturday, Braxton scored one point and missed all three of her field-goal attempts. But in the final 42 seconds, the 6-foot-6 center pulled down two defensive rebounds, should have won a jump ball that was tipped to Deanna Nolan but called out of bounds, and then defended the intended recipient of L.A.’s in-bounds pass, helping force a turnover.
Braxton’s efforts helped drain the clock to 5.5 seconds before the Sparks had a decent chance to set up for a winning basket. Though Pee Wee Johnson missed a pair of free throws that could have sealed it, the clock expired before Temeka Johnson’s 3-point attempt went up for the Sparks. “Kara, she had a good game last night, she started very slow today, but come crunch time, she got two big rebounds and that was a positive,” Laimbeer said.
A pair of Pierson free throws at the start of the fourth quarter pulled the Shock within 60-58, but Los Angeles clung to the lead as neither team could get in an offensive flow. The Sparks shot 31.3 percent en route to 13 points in the fourth quarter, the Shock shot 33.3 percent.
“I thought they showed great heart, they showed guts,” Laimbeer said of his team. “[Swin] Cash really gutted it out, she’s hurting, her back’s hurting her today, and I thought she really got in there and fought for every rebound. Braxton made some big rebounds down the stretch right there. We overcame a lot of adversity today and we got the win.”
The Sparks, 1-9 in their last 10 games entering Sunday, opened the game 6-of-7 from the floor, forcing Laimbeer to take a timeout trailing, 12-4. The Sparks outrebounded the Shock 13-7 in the first quarter, leading to a 23-10 shot advantage. The Sparks had nine second-chance points in the first half to Detroit’s three.
Unlike the Shock’s victory Saturday in Washington, Detroit’s fortunes did not turn around in the second quarter. Sparks guard Mwadi Mabika’s offensive rebound and 3-point putback gave L.A. their largest lead, 36-26, late in the second quarter. Detroit cut the deficit to 39-34 at halftime.
“We attacked the glass both offensively and defensively in the second half,” Laimbeer said. “I thought Katie Smith got in there, Cash got in there, and really worked hard to get those rebounds.”
Smith, who attempted only one field goal in the first half, came out more assertive after halftime and scored 11 of her 14 points in the third quarter. Cash notched her fifth double-double of the season with 16 points and 10 rebounds, including a team-high four on the offensive glass.
The Shock now have a four-game advantage over the freefalling Indiana Fever for the top seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Detroit travels to Western Conference-leading San Antonio on Tuesday.
“We’ve been on a real long, difficult stretch right now,” Laimbeer said. “Coming back-to-back, this is six (games) in 10 (days), it kind of caught up to us a little bit in a lot of ways, but I thought we had a great, gutty performance tonight.”