A Greater Loss
The Shock trailed from opening tip to the Chicago Sky, fell behind by as many as 16 and never got within double digits once the fourth quarter started in an 83-73 defeat. Just two weeks earlier, the Shock had easily dispatched the same team for the second time in three days. But it was far bleaker story Thursday night at The Palace, beginning with the MRI results of Ford’s ailing left knee.
“We knew we lost Cheryl, so that’s past history. That didn’t lose the game for us,” Shock head coach Bill Laimbeer said. “It’s a combination of a couple things. We didn’t play hard enough. I think we also got tired.”
The Shock’s 6-0 run out of halftime tied the game at 42-all, but it was a flicker that turned out to be the closest Detroit would come to a sustained effort all night.
“Chicago played a great game, but when we made a little run, tied it up, they made shots, we didn’t,” said Katie Smith, who shot 3-for-16 from the field, including 1-of-8 from 3-point range. Detroit’s other go-to scorer, Deanna Nolan - who set a franchise record with 36 points just two nights ago - was 2-of-14 for six points. It was only the second time this season Nolan failed to score in double figures.
“We’ve been making a big push, physically and mentally and emotionally, winning some big games, and I think it caught up to us, especially Nolan and Smith, I think it really caught up today,” Laimbeer said. “I should have gone our bench, I should have gone to Latta earlier in the game. She gave us a lot of energy, I wish I had gone to her more in the first half.”
Rookie Ivory Latta led the Shock with 13 points in only 13 minutes. She scored 10 in the fourth quarter. Center Katie Feenstra also scored 13 in her second straight start. She grabbed eight rebounds, six offensive.
The first quarter was abysmal even for the customarily slow-starting Shock. They trailed 11-10 before the Sky went on a 12-0 run the last three minutes of the quarter. Trailing 23-10, it was the Shock’s second-lowest scoring quarter this season. They fell behind by 15 on the first bucket of the second quarter before going on their own 12-0 run, climbing within six points at halftime.
But the Sky regrouped after Detroit erased that 42-36 lead. They held the Shock to 37.5 percent shooting and outrebounded them, 37-32. The Shock dished out a season-low 10 assists on their 28 made field goals.
“Rebounding and defense,” Smith called the differences in the game. “Just contesting their bigs. Their perimeter (players) got off, they’ve been playing well knocking down shots. I think just the effort. Their energy and effort were just a step above us. And we didn’t hit shots. That will do it to you.”
The Shock opened the fourth quarter with two misses and then back-to-back turnovers that led to five straight points by guard Jia Perkins. Thursday was the first time in six games Perkins did not lead the Sky in scoring. She had two points in the first half but finished with 14 points.
All-Star Candice Dupree led Chicago with 24 points and 12 rebounds, and Stacey Dales had 16, all but two coming in the first half. The Sky shot 50.8 percent (30-of-59) from the field. Laimbeer called the Shock’s defense “the glaring weakness that we had.”
That’s three games where teams have shot almost 50 percent against us, and we have to get back to digging deep and playing better defense,” he said.
Of course, now they’ll have to do it without Ford, their best defensive player and the league’s leading rebounder. But that hasn’t changed Laimbeer’s expectations for the remaining nine regular-season contests. “We believe what we have is the best team,” he said. “We put ourselves in a position to compete for the best record which is one our goals. Tonight’s game hurt us a little bit but we have to regain and keep on playing.”