The Detroit Shock limped into the WNBA's Olympic hiatus dealing with injuries, suspensions and their longest losing streak of the season. The month-long break appears to have worked wonders for the defending Eastern Conference champions.
After snapping a four-game skid in their return to the court, the Shock look to build on that victory Sunday when they visit the Chicago Sky.
Detroit (17-11) lost consecutive games only once in the first two months of the season while putting together a 16-7 start. The Shock, though, struggled in the week before the Olympic break, dropping their last four games.
Detroit's 84-81 loss to Los Angeles on July 22 was particularly tough on the Shock, who lost forward Cheryl Ford to a season-ending knee injury she suffered during an on-court fight in the game's closing seconds. Forward Plenette Pierson was suspended four games for her role in the scuffle.
Despite the absence of both players, the Shock returned from the break Friday and ended their losing streak by beating New York 83-69 behind 26 points from Deanna Nolan.
"This was a big game for us, because we have to show the league that we aren't going to let the injuries and the suspensions stop us," Nolan said. "It's been a long month waiting to get going again."
In addition to giving the Shock a chance to regroup, the time off allowed them address their sudden lack of frontcourt depth by acquiring Taj McWilliams-Franklin from Washington. The 6-foot-2 forward had 15 points and seven rebounds in her Shock debut Friday.
"Taj is a veteran who does the things she does very well," Shock coach Bill Laimbeer said. "She's going to be important for us."
McWilliams-Franklin should get plenty of opportunities in Sunday's game while Pierson completes her suspension.
Like the Shock, the Sky (10-17) used the Olympic hiatus to rebound after struggling in late July. Chicago dropped three of four before the league's temporary shutdown, but has won its first two games since the break.
Jia Perkins scored 20 of her 28 points in the second half, and Sylvia Fowles had career-highs of 20 points and 13 rebounds as the Sky beat Washington 79-75 on Friday night.
Chicago, which hasn't won three straight since July 21-26, 2007, has split its first two games with Detroit this year. The Sky won 76-59 at home June 28 before falling 66-63 on the road July 16.
Chicago forward Candice Dupree has averaged 15.0 points and 10.0 rebounds in those games, while Nolan has been held to 13 total points and 6-for-25 shooting from the field.