Shock look rested, not rusty, after nine days off

Healthy and Happy

The Shock’s ailing stars came out of the All-Star break much better than they entered it.

Deanna Nolan scored 22 points and Cheryl Ford added 12 points and nine rebounds as the Shock knocked off Minnesota, 91-83, Friday night at The Palace.

Nolan, who scored a franchise-record 44 against the Lynx at The Palace last season, snapped out of her season-long scoring slump by making six of 10 from the field and nine of 10 at the free-throw line.

“I think I’m getting more mobile, back to, close to 100 percent, as far as playing and moving, just being my mobile self,” said Nolan, who hadn’t topped 16 points since a season-high 27 in the home opener June 8. In her last game before the All-Star break, an injury ravaged Nolan missed her last 13 shots, finishing 3-for-20 in an overtime loss to the Dream.

Ford played 27 minutes in her first game since July 18 - two games and nearly two weeks ago after experiencing soreness in her surgically repaired right knee. She made five of eight field goals and grabbed eight of her game-high nine boards off the defensive glass.

“The knee is feeling really good so, I mean, it just felt great to be out there,” Ford said. “One of the things was when we went on our break to try to come back with our little nagging injuries fixed.”

Alexis Hornbuckle also added two crucial scores in the fourth quarter after Nolan hit a baseline jumper to push Detroit’s lead to double digits, 73-63, for the last time with 5:41 left. Three 3-pointers by Minnesota over the next 1:15 quickly brought the Lynx within a point with 4:26 left, but Hornbuckle’s offensive rebound in traffic and three-point play on the put-back restored Detroit’s command, 76-72.

Back to Basics

by Lauren Harper

As the Shock players walked off the court following Friday’s win, two fans hollered, “Now that’s Shock basketball!” Thanks to some goal-setting sessions with head coach Rick Mahorn during the team’s nine-day break, they have the numbers to prove it.

Mahorn has pushed for a return to the Shock’s gritty defensive roots, something they strayed from during their unsteady start over the season’s first two months.

“We stressed in practice this week defense, defense, defense,” Cheryl Ford said.

Goals included holding the Lynx under a specified field-goal percentage, point total and rebounding total. They also tried to keep their own fouls and turnovers under a certain number.

The Shock were wildly successful in some respects, committing a season-low eight turnovers. In other areas, they fell short. “Our goal for giving up points (was) 72 points,” Ford said, “and we gave up, what, 83? So we still got a lot of work to do.”

It turns out the methodical strategy worked twofold: it sealed the victory and provides a blueprint for the upcoming second half of the season.

“The girls are glad that we have the win,” Mahorn said, “but they’re a little disappointed they’re not getting the goals. That helps when you go to practice because we know what we have to work on.”

“It was a great spark because she’s a long guard who can rebound,” Shock head coach Rick Mahorn said of the sequence. “She got that one offensive rebound that helped out a lot because we had an offensive drought and they were making some threes, so that kind of stopped their run. She came in and did a good job.”

Hornbuckle drove home the dagger, a 3-pointer in front of the Lynx bench with 1:49 left, to make it 84-75. She scored nine points of her points in the fourth.

“We played 40 minutes of basketball, and we expected the team to come back,” Mahorn said. “We just really tried to focus in on some goals we set for the second half of the season, and hopefully we can achieve them.”

Though this was just Detroit’s third win over a team with a winning record (Minnesota is now 10-9), there are signs that the Shock are getting sharper and ready for a serious second-half push.

They accomplished two things that hadn’t happened since their emphatic 81-52 win over the Sparks in the home opener on June 8. Nolan broke the 20-point barrier, and the Shock tied their season-low with just eight turnovers, including a 19-minute stretch without a miscue.

“We were making the passes that needed to be passed and not forcing anything,” said Nolan, who also had a game-high six assists with just a pair of turnovers in 33 minutes.

The Shock jumped out to a 10-0 lead with six points by Nolan and put-back lay-ups from Ford and McWilliams. The Shock closed the quarter with eight straight points from Shavonte Zellous and a McWilliams put-back of a Zellous miss to lead, 23-14.

The Lynx missed their first 11 shots and had all 14 points come off the bench. The Minnesota starters finished the quarter 0-for-12.

The Lynx reserves, led by rookie center Quanitra Hollingsworth and former Shock member Tasha Humphrey, carried the offensive load in the first half. Hollingsworth and Humphrey combined for 19 points on 8-of-14 shooting; the rest of the Lynx had 20 points on 7-of-20. In the second half, however, the duo added just three points more.

The Shock held a 50-49 halftime lead without a point from leading scorer Katie Smith, who was 0-for-5 in the first half. Her first basket came during a 12-4 spurt late in the third that boosted Detroit’s lead back to double digits, 64-54.

“We came out and set the tone in the third period and they still battled back,” Mahorn said. “That’s a very good ball club over there and you’ve got to take your hats off. They’re young and they play very aggressive.”

AfterShocks: Minnesota cut DeForge the day before the season opener after she spent all of the 2008 season and the 2009 training camp with the team. She did not score in 15 minutes Friday…