A Record-Breaking Start
Deanna Nolan scored a franchise record 19 points in the first quarter, giving the Shock a 33-12 lead after 10 minutes. She finished with 26 points on 11-of-14 shooting. Most of the starters had a short night, including Cheryl Ford, who added 14 points in 12 minutes.
The Shock (16-7), who had lost four straight on the road by an average of 13 points and gave away an 18-point lead in their Wednesday win over Chicago, took their frustration out on the Mystics. The 21-point lead escalated to 28 at halftime, reached 35 near the end of the third quarter and peaked at 42 early in the fourth at 91-49. The 37-point margin of victory tied Detroit’s highest in the series.
“In the past couple games we had a habit of being up 20-plus points and giving up the lead, so we just wanted to come in and be focused and keep running the ball,” Nolan said.
As they did last Friday when they defeated the Mystics by 13 at The Palace, the Shock scored the first nine points – and that was before Nolan got started. Once she did, she couldn’t be stopped, rolling off 10 straight, opening a 21-8 lead. A Nolan triple made it 27-9.
“She had 19 points in the first quarter. So when she gets on a role like that, just give her the ball,” Shock head coach Bill Laimbeer said. “She’s fun to watch when she does that.”
Nolan’s 19 points broke the record she set last season when she scored 15 in the third quarter at Connecticut on July 24, 2007. She scored a franchise-best 36 points in that game, a mark she shattered last month with 44 points in a win over Minnesota at The Palace June 20.
Nolan appeared to be on pace to challenge that tally Friday, which is the third-highest scoring performance in WNBA history. But with the outcome decided, Laimbeer limited her to 24 minutes.
“I think I was just feeling good,” Nolan told Shock radio announcer Matt Shepard. “A lot of those shots that I made were off either double kickouts or transition.”
By scoring again 30 seconds into the second quarter, Nolan tied the Shock record for first-half scoring. She had 21 points with just one miss, making nine of 10 shots. The Mystics didn’t reach 21 points until the 3:45 mark, six minutes and 15 seconds after Nolan.
Playing their second game in as many nights, Washington (8-14) didn’t have much fight in them. Blown out by 21 the night before at New York, the Mystics mustered just 12 points in the first quarter on 3-of-10 shooting.
Conversely, Detroit shot 70 percent: Nolan was 8-of-9, while the rest of the team was 6-of-11. With Nolan leading the way, Detroit’s 33 points also set a franchise record for points in a first quarter, surpassing the 29 scored against Chicago on Aug. 4, 2006.
“Some days it just happens,” Laimbeer said. “You get a team that’s tired because they just played yesterday and we were very hungry for [a] road win, so it was a collision of two worlds. We wanted to win really badly and they had their heads down a little bit.”
The Shock bench also had an opportunity to stretch its legs. Kara Braxton, Alexis Hornbuckle and Plenette Pierson scored 10 apiece. Hornbuckle added six rebounds and four steals; Pierson had five rebounds and four assists.
As odd as it sounds, Nolan has carried less of a scoring burden in 2008, deferring to Katie Smith as the team’s predominant scoring option. (Smith scored seven Friday). Consequently, Nolan has emerged as one of the league’s better playmakers. Her 5.3 assists per game is fourth best in the WNBA.
That versatility, coupled with the occasional outburst like Friday night’s, is why Nolan’s reputation as a scorer carries considerable weight around the league despite lacking a gaudy average (13.5 ppg.). Nolan had not scored in double figures in the three games prior to Friday.
“I think it was one of those games when I was due because I was in a little slump the past three games,” Nolan told Shepard,” so I was just trying to have a good night for us.”