Too Close For Comfort
Leading by as many as 23 points in the first half, the Shock found themselves in a 64-63 battle in the final minute. Alexis Hornbuckle’s put-back in traffic with 18.8 seconds left made it a three-point game, and Chicago’s Jia Perkins missed two 3-pointers in the waning seconds.
Perkin’s misfires helped the Shock (15-7) avoid a repeat of Saturday’s game in New York, where an 18-point lead in the third quarter turned into a 10-point loss.
“We’ve done it twice in two games,” said Shock head coach Bill Laimbeer. “In New York we just ran out of gas and didn’t make the plays. But today we played selfish basketball - taking shots we just took because we were up by 18 and then we’d turn it over. That makes us lose focus and our competitive edge.”
The Shock erupted for 18 unanswered points in the second quarter, building a 37-14 lead. But the Sky responded after halftime with a 22-4 run during the late third and early fourth. Chicago pulled within one point on an Armintie Price layup with 37.3 seconds left. Price hurt her team’s cause, however, by missing nine of 10 free throws.
Cheryl Ford rushed a shot on the ensuing possession for the Shock, but 5-foot-11 Hornbuckle weaved her way through the lane for the loose ball and the put-back.
For the last shot Sky head coach Michael Key tried to get the ball to Perkins, who scored 17 of her game-high 26 points in the fourth quarter. She missed an open 3 on the wing, then got a last-gasp attempt as time expired.
“We’ve got to learn to keep our focus and keep our lead,” Ford said. “We lost our focus in the game today in the third. It was a tough one, but we got the win and that’s all that matters.”
Ford and Tasha Humphrey sparked Detroit in the first quarter, scoring the Shock’s first 10 points. Ford led Detroit with 14 points on 6-for-12 shooting and seven rebounds, and Humphrey finished with 12 points on 5-of-9 shooting and six rebounds.
Several Shock players contributed to the seemingly insurmountable first-half lead. Kara Braxton came off the bench and added six points in the first quarter and Shay Murphy nailed two 3-pointers during the run in the second.
Deanna Nolan, held scoreless in the first half, scored nine points after halftime, including a pair of fourth-quarter baskets that slowed Chicago’s furious comeback.
The victory extends Detroit’s lead in the Eastern Conference to 1.5 games following the Connecticut Sun’s loss to New York Tuesday. With business taken care of at home, the Shock look to snap their four-game skid on the road at Washington on Friday night.