Sparks score record-low five points in first quarter

That’s More Like It

The message was clear as the score.

Anything you can do, Sparks, we still can do better.

The Detroit Shock played like defending champions Monday night, building a 26-point halftime lead en route to an 81-52 victory. Detroit’s 29-point margin of victory was the largest ever between the two teams. It also was the fewest points in the series by the Sparks - who just two days earlier had handed the Shock the worst season-opening loss in franchise history.

“It was energy. It was just a desire, a will, a competitiveness, that we had tonight that we did not have in Los Angeles,” said Shock head coach Bill Laimbeer. “That’s night and day for us, especially being shorthanded. If we didn’t play with that kind of energy we were going to have a tough win or a loss tonight. But they have a lot of pride and they came out and showed it tonight.”

Despite missing Cheryl Ford and Plenette Pierson to injuries and Kara Braxton to suspension, the Shock were ever bit as dominant as the Sparks had been in their 78-58 victory Saturday. Detroit’s 42-16 halftime lead was four points shy of a franchise record.

“I think we had a little bit something to prove,” Laimbeer said. “We went out there [to L.A.] and did not play well. We played a little bit with our heads down like, woe-is-us because we had some players out. We talked a lot about that over the last couple days.”

Pierson To Miss 3-4 Weeks

Shock fans received more encouraging news after the game when Laimbeer said Pierson, who severely injured her right shoulder for the second time in 10 months Saturday, might not be done for the season, as first feared.

“Plenette’s probably going to be out for at least 3-4 weeks at a minimum,” he said. “We’ll reassess in two weeks if surgery is necessary.”

Pierson was on the bench Monday night with her right arm in a sling. Last season, the seventh-year forward was one of two players (Deanna Nolan being the other), to amass at least 300 points, 100 rebounds, 50 assists, 20 steals and 10 blocks with the Shock. (Taj McWilliams also accomplished this feat but played her first 26 games with Washington.)

Laimbeer also noted he still expects Cheryl Ford to make her season debut Friday, June 19.

After a rough night in Los Angeles, Deanna Nolan was in vintage form on her home court, where before the game the players received their 2008 championship rings. Nolan finished with a game-high 27 points, breaking an 11-year-old record for most points by a Shock player against Los Angeles.

“I thought somebody besides me would have done it by now,” Nolan said of the mark formerly held by Razija Mujanovic, who scored 25 points at Los Angeles in 1998. “It was just one of those games, we wanted to come out - we were already energized by the ring ceremony - [and] just bring the energy, get to the loose balls and you see how much our bench provided for us tonight.”

Nolan had six field goals at halftime - matching the entire Sparks team. Los Angeles made one of its first 15 shots, and Alexis Hornbuckle stole L.A.’s last possession of the first quarter, beating the clock for a last-second lay-up to give Detroit a 21-5 lead. The Sparks’ five points were the fewest ever by a Shock opponent in a first quarter and tied the mark for fewest points in any quarter.

Detroit’s swarming trap defense bothered the Sparks, who committed 12 turnovers in the first half, leading to 15 Shock points. Los Angeles had just 10 turnovers in Saturday's game. “We trapped well today,” Laimbeer said. “We have big guards that really cause their post players problems and it caused a few turnovers in the first half to get us some good buckets.”

The Sparks couldn’t survive a second off-night from former league MVP Lisa Leslie, who didn’t score until just before the second-quarter buzzer. The WNBA’s all-time leading scorer finished with eight points. She shot just 31.8 percent (7-for-22) over the two games.

Guard Betty Lennox, who sparkled in her L.A. debut with a double-double, picked up had more fouls (four) than points in the first half and finished with six points and no rebounds or assists. Her 3-pointer was L.A.’s only points through the first nine minutes until Tina Thompson laid in their second field goal with 1:01 left in the quarter.

Though the Sparks were without 2008 league MVP Candace Parker, the Shock were missing more bodies and more overall production. Ford (208 rebounds), Braxton (168) and Pierson (168) accounted for 41 percent of Detroit’s 1,248 rebounds last season, which ranked second only to Los Angeles. In a rare statistical victory, the Sparks outrebounded Detroit, 38-35.

Shock guard Katie Smith, who shot 3-for-12 Saturday, was 3-for-5 in the first quarter, including two triples. Smith scored 15 of her 17 points in the first half. “The first time was definitely a wake-up call, I think. It was good one,” Smith said of the season opener. “But Wednesday’s going to be a whole new ball game and whole new challenges and I just hope we mentally and physically come ready to play.” The Shock host the Washington Mystics Wednesday at The Palace.