Game 2: Turned Over
The Fever forced the Shock into 24 turnovers – tied for the most ever by Detroit in a playoff game – to win Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals, 79-75, at Conseco Fieldhouse. Indiana will host the decisive Game 3 Saturday night at 7 p.m.
“We committed 24 turnovers. That gave them the game, really,” said Shock guard Deanna Nolan, who scored a game-high 23 points. “We were still in it. Sometimes we live and die with our turnovers, and tonight, you see the result.”
The Shock were not careless with the ball, necessarily; Indiana’s defense just kept taking the ball away – setting a WNBA Playoffs record with 18 steals. The Fever led the WNBA in turnovers forced this season, including 72 steals more than any other team.
Every Detroit starter had at least three turnovers, with Alexis Hornbuckle responsible for a game-high six. (She also had three steals but went scoreless, missing five shots.)
“We turned the ball over and they made some good shots today, got to the basket, got to the free-throw line,” Shock coach Rick Mahorn said of the Fever, who attempted 30 free throws, 11 more than Detroit. “They did the things they’re supposed to do. It’s a very good team.”
Tamika Catchings, who had a league-high 99 steals this season, was honored as Defensive Player of the Year for the third time prior to the game. She then collected five steals in the first half, finishing with six. The Fever, whose previous team playoff record for steals in a game was 11, had 12 at halftime Friday.
“They forced turnovers, but at the same time, I thought we were not patient enough,” Nolan said. “They were taking away our first two options, so to speak, but we just have to settle down and go to those third and fourth options and not try to force passes, knowing that that’s they live off of.”
Those two options would be Nolan and Zellous, who combined for 43 points in Game 1. Zellous fought through a 6-for-20 shooting night to score 19 points, while Nolan was 7-of-19 with four turnovers.
“[The Fever] were going to keep her and Nolan under duress and they did a good job double-teaming and getting the ball out of their hands and making sure when they shot the ball there was a lot of pressure,” Mahorn said. “You take your hats off to them; it was a good defensive plan.”
Briann January made sure Zellous -- who scored a Game 1-high 23 points -- wouldn’t be the only rookie to impact the series. The Fever guard, drafted five spots ahead of Zellous at No. 6, scored 12 points to lead the Indiana bench. She hit two 3-pointers. The first one erased Detroit’s final lead at 50-49, making it 52-50 with 2:40 left in the third quarter. Her second one came as part of five straight points to open the fourth quarter and give Indiana its largest lead, seven points.
“She made good open shots and it so gives them an added extra punch of the bench and she did perform pretty well tonight,” Mahorn conceded.
Indiana coach Lin Dunn thought her extra dimension wore Detroit’s defense thin. “Nolan’s their best defender, whose going to guard?” she said. “Is she going to guard Bri or is she going to guard [Katie] Douglas or is she going to guard Catchings? And so I think she was trying to guard all three.”
Nolan, who was named to the WNBA All-Defensive Second Team Friday, agreed to an extent, saying, “it wasn’t Shock defense.” After she pulled Detroit within 75-72 on a 3-pointer with 3:44 to play, the Shock never came closer than four points.
“We got stops, but not down the stretch,” she said. “At the same time it's like, that’s when you need them the most.”
Catchings scored 22 points to lead Indiana. Eight came after a foul to the face left her shaken up momentarily in the third quarter. The All-WNBA forward was injured in playoff games against Detroit in 2006 and 2007, and was unable to finish either series.
Dunn anticipates similar collisions on Saturday, when either the Shock will reach a fourth consecutive WNBA Finals or the Fever will reach their first.
“It was a war; it wasn’t a battle,” Dunn said. “It was a war and I’m expecting the same kind of war tomorrow night.”
AfterShocks: The 24 turnovers also set a new record for most by a Fever playoff opponent. The previous mark was 20 – by Detroit, in Game 1 of their first-round series a year ago, which the Shock won.