Shock Rock Mercury
With a new lineup and renewed vigor, the Shock scored a WNBA-record 72 points in the second half to light up the Phoenix Mercury, 111-82, at The Palace. Six Shock players reached double figures, led by 20 from Katie Smith and a season-high 13 by Ivory Latta.
“Well, it was positive for us, but it’s only one game,” Laimbeer said. “But we overcame a slow start and found our shooting touch. (We) played harder than we have definitely the last four or five games.”
The Shock’s second-half outburst could not have been more unexpected. The Mercury led throughout the first half, seizing a 21-10 advantage before a 9-0 Detroit run helped make it a two-point game by halftime, 41-39.
The Shock took their first lead early in the third quarter, 44-43, and shortly thereafter broke a 48-48 tie with 19 unanswered points, en route to a 40-point third quarter, a WNBA record. “That just happens. I think we start making shots, we get their team on their heels,” Laimbeer said. “We got some easy looks at inside of the basket, in the paint, and we attacked the rim. Then we started making shots. It leads to a good combination.”
Smith scored eight points during the run, including two triples to start and end it, and scored 17 of her 20 in the third quarter. Smith broke out of recent shooting slump by going 5-of-10 from the field and 4-of-7 from beyond the arc.
“Obviously in the third quarter we really got going, really got clicking a little bit,” she said. “Let’s just hope this carries over. And there’s still a lot of things we can work on, still a lot of things we can get better at, but I think we were all a little like, wondering, especially in the first half. It wasn’t as pretty as we would have liked, but we kept fighting, battling and had a nice second half.”
The Shock also dominated Phoenix on the glass, 55-26, and tallied 26 assists on 38 field goals while shooting nearly 50 percent from the field (38-of-77).
“We were aggressive, we didn’t turn the ball over, and got active on defense and then as you saw from the stats, we got back to the basics a little bit,” Smith said. “We attacked their zone, penetrating. Cheryl (Ford), Swin (Cash), Plenette were just monsters on the boards both ends. I just think we kind of went back, as I said, to basics and that really kind of put us over the top.”
The 111 points tied the Shock’s franchise record for scoring in a game, which was set June 18, 2000 against Indiana. It was in that 2000 game that the Shock also set the previous WNBA mark for scoring in a half with 66 points.
Latta, who had already surpassed her season-high with seven points in the first half on 3-of-3 from the field, put the Shock at 111 with her third triple in the game’s final minute. Primarily a 3-point specialist this season, Latta responded to Laimbeer’s revised substitution pattern with her best all-around performance. She was 5-of-6 from the field with three assists and a steal in 20 minutes. “It was important for her to be ready,” Laimbeer said. “She brings energy, there’s no question about that, and that’s what we like and that’s what we need right now.”
Guard Elaine Powell was in the starting lineup for center Kara Braxton, who, as Laimbeer promised after Friday’s loss, would not play a meaningful role in the near future. While Powell played seven scoreless minutes and Braxton played four minutes of mop-up duty in the fourth, there were significant contributors off the bench. Guard Shannon Johnson had 14 points and a game-high eight assists while forward Plenette Pierson had her second double-double of the season with 13 points and 14 rebounds. None of that, however, has changed Laimbeer’s thinking toward settling his lineup situation.
“Every game’s going to be different. We know that,” Laimbeer said regarding future lineups and bench rotations. “We like Cheryl in there at the (center). We wanted to see a lot of Katie Feenstra today, I thought she played well. I think she could be a big key against Chicago, and (Johnson) I thought came to play today and so did Plenette. We had to do some soul searching, especially our bench players, had to realize they’re energy players and to bring it every night.”
The Detroit Shock’s fortunes began to turn sour after a June 22 victory over the Mercury, playing .500 ball since jumping out to a league-best 11-1 record. Now they hope another win over Phoenix will turn their luck around again. “We went back to our M.O.’s, and that was rebound the basketball, attack the rim, try to get to the free-throw line and open up shots for our shooters,” Laimbeer said, “And that’s what we did.”