Detroit Cools Fever Off
With torrid shooting from the field, Detroit jumped out to 16-9 lead on the Indiana Fever, withstood every run and never surrendered the lead for an 89-80 victory at Conseco Fieldhouse. The Shock shot 53 percent in the first quarter, which is just about where they finished for the game (31-of-59). The Shock have not lost when shooting over 50 percent in five seasons.
Indiana, which had allowed a league-low 69.0 points per game entering Friday, had yielded 65 to Detroit after three quarters. The 89 points also ties Indiana's season-high for points allowed.
Detroit guards Katie Smith and Deanna Nolan led the barrage, shooting a combined 16-of-25 from the field. Smith, who had been just 6-of-18 in the past two games, cranked out a game-high 28 points. She scored her 12 first-half points on four 3-pointers, showing some of her best range of the season. Nolan started quickly with seven points in the first quarter and finished with 19.
The Fever, which at 16-4 had set an Eastern Conference record for best start through 20 games, never let their rivals get comfortably ahead. After falling behind 16-9, they tied the game at 16. Indiana shot 42 percent and had seven different scorers in the first quarter.
The Shock had a four-point lead after the first quarter and at halftime, 47-43, but it against any other team it would have been larger. The Shock couldn't shake the Fever despite shooting 56 percent from the field, 60 percent from 3-point range and 5-of-6 from the foul line.
Both teams cooled off coming out of intermission, but center Kara Braxton had the first two scores of the third quarter to give the Shock their largest lead, 51-43, until Indiana was forced to foul late in the game. Braxton returned to the lineup Friday after missing Wednesday's victory due to a right ankle sprain. She had six points and five rebounds, four offensive.
The Fever narrowed it to 51-50 before Detroit once again pushed the lead to eight points. Indiana's Sheri Sam drained a 35-footer to beat the third-quarter buzzer, cutting the lead to 65-59. But the Fever's comeback attempts were derailed when Tamika Catchings suffered a foot injury on the last play of the quarter. The All-Star forward did not return to the game. Catchings dominated Detroit in the first meeting and was stuffing the stat sheet again Friday, finishing with 12 points, eight rebounds and seven assists in just under 27 minutes.
The Fever bench did its best to compensate. Sam and Tan White combined for 23 points off the bench as Indiana's reserve outscored Detroit's, 31-15. Shock head coach Bill Laimbeer went only eight deep, playing veterans Plenette Pierson, Pee Wee Johnson and Katie Feenstra. Laimbeer stuck with the starters knowing they would host Washington Saturday at The Palace – their third game in four days – and that several starters played more than 35 minutes in Wednesday's win.
But none of it mattered Friday. Nolan played all 40 minutes, and despite playing 37 minutes, Smith sealed the Shock’s first regular-season win at Indiana in six tries with four made free throws in the final minute. She was 10-for-10 from the stripe.
All-Star forward Cheryl Ford, who missed the Fever's victory at The Palace a month ago, made a difference this time around. She grabbed a game-high 11 boards as Detroit won the board battle, 35-24. Ford also added nine points.
Swin Cash, who scored 10 points in the first half and finished with 12, grabbed her 1,000 career rebound early in the second quarter. She is second on the Shock franchise list behind Ford.
The two WNBA heavyweights, now tied for the league's best record at 16-5, will meet again Aug. 11 at The Palace and conclude the regular-season series in Indianapolis Aug. 19.