Shock Slide Continues in OT
But it’s the similarities – poor shooting at the outset, an inability to protect any cushion against a less experienced, less talented roster and a hurried, off-balance potential game-winner by Deanna Nolan – that cultivated the Shock’s third consecutive loss, 82-81, this time in overtime at The Palace.
The script appeared headed for a different ending when Nolan’s 3-pointer with 4.2 seconds in regulation tied the game at 73, sending the Shock (11-5) to overtime. But it was the green Liberty – with only one player with more than five years WNBA experience to the Shock’s five – that staked a 82-76 lead with 1:51 left. The Shock scored five straight, but in the final seconds Nolan’s floater in the lane was too hard, and the long rebound came out to New York, which won for just the second time in six games.
After a nearly flawless first quarter to the season, the Shock ended June shaky and have done nothing right through two games in July, blowing fourth-quarter leads at home both times.
“I’ll tell you it was disturbing,” Shock head coach Bill Laimbeer said. “We are imploding as a basketball team right now. We’re pointing fingers at everybody. Everybody doesn’t think they’re the answer, or they’re the problem. You could see it on the basketball court. You could see us not running back on defense, if something doesn’t go my way, we stop running. We stop competing. We missed defensive assignments and that’s just bad basketball, and that’s what we are right now. We’re a bad basketball team.”
The Shock led 49-48 entering the fourth quarter and had been leading most of the night, but couldn’t capitalize on New York’s mistakes like they did in the first half. “I told them before the game started, fourth quarter, they’ve got to want to win basketball games, they’ve got to want to play together, they got to want to play on that edge and they’re not doing it,” Laimbeer said.
The Liberty committed 13 turnovers before halftime, leading to 14 Detroit points. The Shock, which shot 6-of-18 in the first quarter, welcomed the extra chances early on. They only scored three points on New York's final 10 turnovers. “I thought we came out with a lot of energy, we had the momentum and we just couldn’t hit shots at the beginning,” said Nolan, who finished with 21 points on 8-of-18 shooting.
If there was any bright spot for the Shock, it was Cheryl Ford, who looked like she was full strength with 22 points and 18 rebounds, both season highs. “It doesn’t matter that I had a good game today, we still lost,” Ford said from a somber Shock locker room. “We just… I don’t know. I guess we didn’t come to play. I know I missed some defensive stop, missed a couple rebounds.”
Liberty forward Janel McCarville had a career night in both points (18) and rebounds (12), but it was center Cathrine Kraayeveld that changed the game for New York. Entering the fourth quarter with two points on 1-for-6 shooting, Kraayeveld scored seven straight points in the opening three minutes, giving the Liberty a 58-53 lead. She scored 12 of her 14 points in the fourth quarter.
In contrast, Shock center Kara Braxton played 12 scoreless minutes, and for the fourth time in five games had more personal fouls than points, leading to Laimbeer to suggest radical changes on the horizon.
“We’re probably going to go in a different direction. She’s not going to play for a while for us. If she does, she’ll play a limited reserve role,” Laimbeer said of Braxton, who will nonetheless start for the Eastern Conference in next Sunday’s WNBA All-Star game.
“We’re looking at anything and everything. I would hate to put Plenette in the starting lineup, she probably deserves it, but it takes away from our bench. Feenstra, maybe, or go small, I don’t know yet,” Laimbeer said. “I’m not panicking yet, I’m just going to give time to the people who are competing harder than the other ones, and playing smarter.”
One of those players is rookie Ivory Latta, who played nearly all of the fourth quarter. She missed all three of her field-goal attempts. “Ivory plays hard, every day in practice," he said. "She brings energy, we’re not having any energy on the floor. We’re just kind of running around and not really caring.” Nolan said the Shock had two good practices this week since Sunday’s defeat and she was confident Friday “would be a turnaround game for us.” Instead, the coaches and players are again searching for answers and trying to determine how something going so right could turn so wrong.
“Right now,” Nolan said, “we’re just trying to figure it out.”