A Quick Fix
He got the answer he was looking for even before Shock’s 70-61 victory at The Palace, which put Detroit back in a first-place tie with the Sun.
“Going into today’s game I felt very good,” Laimbeer said. “We had some internal issues we had to figure out, and we did. We saw that in practice this morning. And we really saw it before the game.”
The Shock returned to their grind-it-out style, outscoring Connecticut in the paint, 40-16, and outrebounding them 37-32. It was a considerable upgrade from their disjointed performance in Tuesday’s 85-68 loss, in which they allowed the Sun 15 offensive rebounds and 12 made 3-pointers.
“We gave them too many (offensive) boards and we knew that and Bill wrote it on the board for our pregame talk: ‘Defense, rebound. Defense, rebound,’” said Cheryl Ford, who had 10 points and nine rebounds, one board shy of her fourth consecutive double-double. “So we knew we had to rebound. We gave them too many second shots (Tuesday), and that was the difference in the game.”
Ford was one of five players in double figures for Detroit, which was led by Deanna Nolan’s 13 points.
The Shock’s lead fluctuated throughout the evening. When their 16-point lead dwindled to five in the third quarter, the Shock responded with an 11-1 run. But it was during that game-clinching run that forward Plenette Pierson went down with a right knee injury, giving a scare to the Shock bench and fans.
Jumping for a defensive rebound, Pierson came down awkwardly, putting all the pressure on her right leg. She left the floor with the help of assistant coach Rick Mahorn and trainer Laura Ramus, but appeared to be in better spirits on the sideline during the fourth quarter. She will undergo an MRI on Friday for what is being called a right knee strain.
”I don’t think it’s really serious,” Laimbeer said. “You never know until you find out the next day, but I was told it was a strain.”
Pierson, who finished with 10 points on 5-of-8 shooting, did not return, but the Shock didn’t need her to, with Kara Braxton (11 points) delivering a double-digit performance for the first time in six games. Detroit made its last five shots of the third quarter to make it 64-45, and they cruised in the fourth.
“We made a conscience effort to go inside before the game,” Laimbeer said. “We thought we were bigger than them, and we definitely want to play defense and rebound better, and we did.”
The Shock jumped out to a 17-7 lead in the first quarter by turning six Sun turnovers into seven points. Eighteen turnovers resulted in 17 Detroit points on the night. The lead grew to 25-9 early in the second quarter before Sun forward Asjha Jones stepped up, scoring 11 of her 14 points. Jones, who scored a team-high 20 Tuesday, was held scoreless after halftime, shooting 0-for-4 from the floor.
The Sun rookies who combined for 33 points Tuesday, Amber Holt and Kerri Gardin, had little left for the encore. Holt’s only field goal was the 3-pointer that pulled the Sun within 41-36, and Gardin had eight points. “Our defense was much more active tonight,” Laimbeer said. “We didn’t give them the open looks they had before.”
The Shock and Sun are now deadlocked atop the Eastern Conference at 11-4 with one head-to-head win apiece. The rubber match that could determine home court in the playoffs, should one team fail to win the conference outright, is July 8 at The Palace. “Totally knew coming into tonight that we could win and obviously get ourselves back tied for first,” said Katie Smith, who had 10 points. “We’ve got a few games here and then we’ll see them again very soon.”