Shock Get Shaking
Starting center Kara Braxton keyed Detroit's huge third quarter with nine of her 11 points. She had three consecutive go-ahead baskets and converted one of two three-point opportunities in the first six minutes, giving Detroit a 50-46 lead. The Shock made 12 of 14 shots in the third, building a 16-point lead.
"There's no question, in the third quarter we dropped 31 and a lot of it was by going inside," Shock head coach Bill Laimbeer said. "For some reason (New York) stopped trapping the bigs, they went 1-on-1 and we took advantage of it."
Deanna Nolan scored 24 of her 26 points in the first three quarters, including a team-high 14 in the first half, when Detroit's offense was clearly out of sync after 32 days off. The Shock trailed at the break, 38-35, and was shooting just 38 percent.
"I think we played hard enough. I just think the rust and the timing wasn't there to play a real game," Laimbeer said. "(New York) had a game before and it was to their advantage. We talked about it at halftime. The rust is gone, let's come out in the third quarter and really start to execute and we did."
Among the players who looked much more comfortable after halftime was six-time All-Star forward Taj McWilliams-Franklin, who was making her Shock debut. She missed four of her five field goals in the first half, but scored Detroit's first field goal of the third quarter to set the tone.
"She has great patience. She knows what she's doing on the basketball court. If you watch defensively the things she does, she does them very well," Laimbeer said. "That she happened to get off in the second half and give us some good buckets down the stretch, that was even better."
When the Liberty came within five points with just over six minutes to play McWilliams-Franklin drained a jumper from the top of the key to make it 70-63. She closed the door on the Liberty, shooting 3-for-3 from the field and 2-for-2 at the foul line in the fourth.
"It gave us a nice cushion because when I'm hitting jumpers on the outside they can't double-team Kara on the inside off of me," said McWilliams-Franklin, who finished with 15 points.
Braxton, making her fourth start of the season, played just five minutes in the first half because of two early fouls. Her frontcourt pairing with the veteran McWilliams-Franklin already seems to be paying off.
"I was like, 'You know what, we don't have any foul trouble. Just go out and work your game,'" McWilliams-Franklin said. "We fed her and fed her, and that's what Coach Laimbeer told us in the beginning of the game, to feed Kara because she's so big and no one can stop her. To me, I don't think anybody in this league can stop her."
After a pregame presentation celebrating her gold-medal performance with the U.S. Olympic team in Beijing, Katie Smith scored 14 points, one shy of 5,000 in her WNBA career.
Postseason Picture: Before tipping off in Chicago Sunday, the Shock should first thank the Sky for all the help they've been this week. The Sky defeated New York Thursday, elevating Detroit to No. 2 in the East even before beating them Friday. Then the Sky won at Washington, 79-75. The Shock's victory and Mystics' defeat clinched Detroit's sixth consecutive trip to the postseason.
Also on Friday, the first-place Sun defeated the Dream to maintain a one-game lead over Detroit (17-11). The Shock only need to match the Sun (18-10), whom they have defeated twice to claim the postseason tiebreaker.
One reason the Shock might be able to run the table: New York's the only opponent they face the rest of the regular season with a record above .500. They meet again in the Sept. 14 finale.
- Laimbeer expects point guard Elaine Powell to start Sunday at Chicago, her first game since June 11 when she suffered a left foot injury. "Elaine Powell's fine. She would have started tonight except she has to serve her one game suspension for leaving the bench," Laimbeer said, referring to the July 22 skirmish with the Sparks. "I expect her to be in the starting lineup in the next game."
- Detroit native and six-year WNBA veteran Stacey Lovelace has been released just weeks after joining the Shock on July 11. Lovelace, a 6-foot-4 center, saw action in seven games with Detroit. She shot 28.6 percent from the floor, averaging 1.4 points and 1.0 rebounds in 6.3 minutes per game. The well-traveled Lovelace had started her seventh WNBA season with the Atlanta Dream before being waived July 9.
- Former Shock forward Tasha Humphrey had 11 points and a team-high nine rebounds in her Mystics debut Friday.