Pierson blocks team-record six shots in loss

Block Party Not Enough

Candace Parker didn’t beat the Detroit Shock Wednesday night in Los Angeles, but the Sparks won anyway, 80-73.

Lisa Leslie had 17 points, 12 rebounds and five blocks for L.A., which had every starter in double figures. The Sparks surged ahead late in the first quarter and took a 48-43 lead into halftime.

Though they never led in the second half, the Shock rallied from a 70-60 deficit to pull within a point, 72-71, on a Plenette Pierson bank shot with just over three minutes left. The Sparks, who blew an 18-point lead in their home opener Friday, closed the game on an 8-2 run for their first win at the Staples Center.

“It was a well-fought game,” said Sparks forward DeLisha Milton-Jones, who had 13 points and seven rebounds. “We knew that this game was going to be a game of runs, a game of peaks and valleys. I think we sustained every push they had. Overall, we showed a lot of heart and determination and grit. That’s how we pulled it out.”

Pierson set a franchise record with six blocks to go with 11 points and seven rebounds. Katie Smith scored a team-high 16 with seven rebounds and four assists, and Deanna Nolan added 14 points, including a questionable two-point jumper late in the fourth that may have been beyond the arc. The basket made it a 72-69 game.

“I thought we made some bad decisions down the stretch. We had cut the lead to three,” Nolan said. “They had some fast breaks that we could have slowed down, but we forced a lot of shots that didn’t go in or made a bad turnover. I thought we had a chance to win, we just needed to settle down and run our offense.”

Parker, the No. 1 pick in the 2008 draft, had the roughest outing of her brief but brilliant professional career. Plagued by foul trouble, she had a season-low 10 points and only five rebounds, well below her league-leading average of 11.2.

Parker had plenty of help, however, as Leslie exploded for 11 quick points, overwhelming Detroit’s surprise starter, Tasha Humphrey. The rookie forward entered Wednesday’s contest with 11 points in 11 minutes all season, but she looked superb on the offensive end, making her first three shots. She finished with eight points.

Humphrey replaced fellow rookie Olayinka Sanni, who played only four minutes. She contributed a three-point play that tied the game at 15 and assisted on a go-ahead layup by Elaine Powell. But Leslie drew a Humphrey foul at the other end and converted a three-point play for the lead.

The Sparks shot 20 free throws in the first half – and they didn’t miss once. L.A. finished 24-for-24 at the line while Detroit was 19-of-26. “Well it started off by us allowing them easy buckets. We sent them to the free-throw line a lot in the first quarter, but we tied it up. Just couldn’t quite get over that hump,” Katie Smith said. “They made their free throws, we didn’t.”

Detroit lost Powell to a left ankle injury and Cheryl Ford to her third personal foul in the second quarter, a time when the Shock frequently have struggled this season. It spelled similar trouble Wednesday. Trailing 32-26 after one, Shock head coach Bill Laimbeer called a timeout after consecutive scores by first-time starter Kiesha Brown put his team in a 13-point hole.

The Shock, who had 12 assists on 14 field goals in the first half, closed the gap to five by the break and were within three after Humphrey’s basket to open the third quarter.

The Sparks (5-2) had six 3-pointers while Detroit was just 2-of-10 from downtown. Parker’s second triple gave L.A. an eight-point cushion, but she picked up her fourth foul moments later. Detroit guard Alexis Hornbuckle went right at her old pal and former Tennessee teammate, drawing a three-point play on Parker’s fifth foul. Hornbuckle’s driving layup and free throw made it 57-52.

Hornbuckle, who played extensively in place of Powell, had eight points, six rebounds and five steals, but missed seven of eight field goals and had five turnovers.

The Shock (7-3), who complete their four-game West Coast trip Saturday in Phoenix, lost consecutive games for the first time this season.

AfterShocks:

  • LaToya Thomas scored a team-high 19 points for the Sparks in Detroit’s win at L.A. last June. Now with the Shock, Thomas played five minutes, missing her only shot attempt.

  • Ruth Riley most recently tied the prior team record for blocks with five against Seattle on July 10, 2004.

  • Shannon Bobbitt, a teammate of Parker and Hornbuckle at Tennessee, made her mark on the game before either of her more heralded classmates. The second-round pick came off the bench for seven points and a couple of assists late in the first quarter.