San Antonio 76, Detroit 64
AUBURN HILLS, Mich., July 27 (AP) -- Bill Laimbeer has seen a lot of strange things in his long basketball career, but nothing quite like the last week.
Laimbeer's Detroit Shock lost four straight games, got national attention for a fight with Los Angeles that cost them two of their best players, signed 50-year-old
"This is as tough a stretch as we've ever had,'' Laimbeer said after Sunday's 76-64 loss to San Antonio. "We definitely need to regroup right now.''
Luckily for the Shock, Sunday's game was the last one before the month-long Olympic break.
"We knew two weeks ago that we really needed the break to get here, and that was before the ceiling caved in,'' Laimbeer said. "We didn't realize it was going to be this bad.''
Both teams entered Sunday's game in first place in their conferences, but only the Silver Stars stayed there. Detroit fell a half-game behind Connecticut.
"This is big, especially with all of the parity in the West,'' San Antonio coach Dan Hughes said. "Every game is going to be big the way our conference is going.''
Becky Hammon, who will be playing for Russia in the Olympics, scored 23 points but the key might have been 14 points each from San Antonio centers Ruth Riley and Ann Wauters. With Plenette Pierson suspended after Tuesday's fight and Cheryl Ford out due to the knee injury sustained during the brawl, San Antonio had a 24-16 advantage in points in the paint.
"They definitely missed Cheryl and Plenette,'' Riley said. "Those are two big presences in their lineup.''
The game was Riley's first in Detroit since being traded from the Shock to the Silver Stars before the 2007 season. Riley, the MVP of Detroit's 2003 championship victory over Los Angeles, missed last year's game in Detroit with an injury.
"I though Ruth played a fantastic game,'' Hughes said. "We always want to go inside, but she helped us do that very effectively tonight. But we have to be honest -- that's not the same team without Pierson and Ford.''
"I'm so happy that we've gotten to the break,'' said Nolan, who has played the entire season with leg injuries sustained while playing in Russia. "It will be a pleasure to just rest and relax.''
There's a slim chance that Nolan might not get her vacation, though. She said Sunday that she and Phoenix point guard Kelly Miller would be the alternates if Hammon got injured before the Olympics.
"I would have loved to have gone, but they decided they needed a point guard,'' she said. "I'd still go if they needed me, but they might take Kelly because she's a point guard.''
The Shock took a quick 9-2 lead, but San Antonio outscored Detroit 14-3 in the rest of the first quarter.
Hammon's struggles -- she missed seven of her first eight shots -- helped Detroit take a 35-34 lead into the halftime intermission.
Hammon picked up her game late, though. She hit six of her next seven shots, including back-to-back 3-pointers that gave the Silver Stars a 67-54 lead with 6:30 to play. Immediately after the game, she rushed out of the arena to catch a plane to begin her Beijing adventure.