The Balance is Back
“It’s always good to get a W because it’s been kind of aggravating losing four in a row,” said Rick Mahorn, who waited nearly two weeks to get his first win as head coach. The players awarded him the game ball. “You’ve got to make sure your players keep the level of intensity up and I thought they did a great job tonight.”
The Shock outrebounded the Monarchs, 32-26, and had a nine-rebound advantage at halftime (21-12). Sacramento entered the game as the league’s top rebounding team, averaging 38 rebounds per game. The Shock also enjoyed a 36-8 advantage in points scored in the paint. The Shock (2-5) were able to return to their customary physical style thanks to forward Cheryl Ford - who had 12 points, eight rebounds and two blocks - and center Kara Braxton, who had eight points and four rebounds in her season debut.
“It gives you that 6-5, 6-6 person that you want in the middle that you can feed the ball,” Mahorn said of Braxton, who made four of five shots in 13 minutes after being suspended for the team’s first six games. “But I’ll tell you, the person who played really well tonight was Cheryl Ford. She came in and gave us the points in the paint that we needed. She established the inside game and she also got those offensive rebounds and it was great to see her each game get better.”
Braxton delivered Detroit’s first block in three games late in the first quarter, swatting Monarchs center Rebekkah Brunson’s shot from behind. “We had a bigger body in there to help us rebound some more and bang with the bigger players and a taller player you have to shoot over,” Ford said of Braxton. “So this is one win, we still have a long way to go, but I think this is a stepping stone.”
For the first time since taking over as head coach, Mahorn enough players in uniform to go deep into his bench, and it paid off. In addition to Braxton, Kristin Haynie set a franchise record with four steals in the second quarter, three leading to fast-break layups, and rookie Shavonte Zellous scored a team-high 18 points. Deanna Nolan scored 14 and Alexis Hornbuckle added 10 points after missing Friday's game with a concussion.
Haynie Gets Defensive
by Ryan Pretzer
Kristin Haynie hasn’t played for the Sacramento Monarchs since 2007. But her old team kept giving her the ball anyway.
The first-year Shock point guard tied a franchise record with four steals in the second quarter - scoring on fast-break layups three times. Of Sacramento’s 19 turnovers Sunday, 13 of them were steals by the Shock.
“I was with them for three years, so you kind of have an idea what they’re going to do,” said Haynie, a former Michigan State star who was drafted by Sacramento and played there from 2005-07.
The Shock averaged seven steals during their 1-4 start, but have 24 steals over the last two games, with Haynie playing an integral role. On Friday, she again had four steals - one shy of her career high - against her other former team, the Dream.
Prior to Friday - when she started in place of the injured Alexis Hornbuckle - Haynie had played sparingly and didn’t have a single steal all season. She was slowed in preseason by a quadriceps injury that kept her off the floor, which kept former head coach Bill Laimbeer in the dark as to how exactly Haynie fit in.
“It wasn’t a 100 percent at the beginning of the season, but now I can’t feel it,” Haynie said of the injury. “I’m healthy now.”
In addition to scoring a season-high eight points Sunday, she committed just one turnover in 18 minutes. That handle should make her an increasingly valuable asset for the turnover-prone Shock.
With Detroit at nearly full strength - surely as close as they'll come with Plenette Pierson out of the season - the Monarchs were overmatched early. They committed three turnovers in the first three minutes and made only one of their first five shots as Detroit built an 8-2 lead. The Shock scored 26 points off 19 Sacramento turnovers. “It’s more [like] Shock basketball when you get out in the lane and you can force them out,” Mahorn said.
On paper, the teams entered Sunday’s contest much closer. They were the league’s last two one-win teams, and were the bottom two teams in scoring differential and the only teams averaging fewer than 14 assists a game. But those numbers are sure to change in Detroit’s favor with Braxton back and Ford looking increasingly more comfortable since off-season knee surgery. Ford scored on back-to-back post moves in the third quarter, driving across the lane for a right-handed layup and then backing down for a baseline jumper to make it 58-40.
Zellous made a steal on the subsequent possession, and was fouled hard in transition by Chelsea Newton, resulting in a flagrant-1 foul. That play set the tone for some chippy play in the fourth quarter, as the Monarch pulled within eight points.
AfterShocks: Nolan has sported some new body armor over her right shoulder the last two games, replacing her previous bandage-like patch with a much larger neoprene sleeve. Nolan said trainer Laura Ramus made the switch because the tape holding the patch in place wouldn't stick, and that she has not suffered any setback with the shoulder... Pistons 2009 draft picks Austin Daye, DaJuan Summers and Jonas Jerebko took in the game courtside.