Wild, Wild West Coast
The Shock opened its four-game West Coast swing with a 79-73 victory over the Los Angeles Sparks despite exchanging a 15-point lead in the second quarter for a 70-68 deficit with 3:18 to play.
Shock guard Katie Smith hit a 3-pointer to give Detroit the lead for good, 71-70, and went on to score Detroitís next four points, the last of her team-high 18. Forward Plenette Pierson and center Kara Braxton each made a pair of free throws in the final 25 seconds to complete Detroitís 11-3 finishing kick. The Sparks scored only 11 points in the fourth.
Braxton scored 12 and Pierson added 11 points as two of Detroitís four scorers in double figures. Playing out position for the second straight game, Swin Cash scored six points but had seven assists. Guard Deanna Nolan scored 15 on 7-of-14 shooting.
The Shock narrowly avoided a second straight loss after losing their first game of the season Saturday to Indiana. While starting forward Cheryl Ford was again out of the lineup Monday, the team looked better prepared for the situation against L.A., playing one of their best opening halves of the season.
Shannon Johnson, a career starter before coming to Detroit, was inserted into the Shock lineup (it had been Elaine Powell Saturday) and Smith moved to the forward position. Johnson responded with a team-high 10 points on 4-of-6 shooting in the first half. The Shock led by double figures throughout the opening two quarters, scoring 48 points and shooting 54.3 percent from the field (19-of-35). Smithís 3-pointer with 1:04 left in the second quarter gave Detroit itís largest advantage, 48-33.
The Sparks stayed within striking distance with the 3-ball, making nine treys on 39.1 percent shooting from beyond the arc. Forward LaToya Thomas had a career day from long range, making 4-of-6 en route to a team-high 19 points. Mwadi Mbika scored 16 points. Her third and final triple gave L.A. their first lead of the second half, 53-52. After trailing by 11 at halftime, the Sparks entered the fourth quarter with a 62-61 lead.
Sparks forward Taj McWilliams-Franklin took full advantage with Ford out of the lineup, scoring 17 points and grabbing a season-high 11 rebounds.
Detroitís performance was uncharacteristic in several ways - not all of them bad. Averaging nearly 20 turnovers a game, Detroit had only three in the first half, and despite a rash of mistakes in the troublesome third, finished with nine. The Shock also were atrocious from the foul line, shooting under 50 percent through three quarters - nearly 25 percent below their season average - before making 7-of-8 attempts in the fourth.
The Shock will have Tuesday off before taking on the Seattle Storm Wednesday. Fordís availability after a mild left knee sprain remains questionable. She was on the bench in her jersey and warm-ups Monday.