Road Win Won’t Be Easy
The last two years the Shock have benefited from having back-to-back home games in the first round. In 2008, they took Game 3 after the Shock and Fever won on the other’s home floor; the year before they had to win games 2 and 3 at The Palace after getting routed in New York.
This time the home-court advantage belongs to the upstart Dream, who defeated the Shock twice this season at Philips Arena. The Dream will host games 2 and 3 at Gwinnett Arena in Duluth, northeast of Atlanta. They were 12-5 at Philips Arena this season.
The home wins helped the Dream secure the tiebreaker after both teams finished 18-16, and the home court could help swing the series back to them. For the Shock to advance with a win Friday in Game 2, they will have to be more efficient offensively than they had been in prior visits to Georgia. The Shock have shot 35.0 percent from the floor at Atlanta, versus 43.2 percent against the Dream at home in 2009. They also had a season-low nine assists in the first game there June 26.
A lot of that had to do with a uncharacteristically poor nights from Detroit’s leading scorer, Deanna Nolan, who likely will be a game-time decision Friday after suffering a concussion late in Game 1. Nolan, who starred at the University of Georgia, shot 23.0 percent (9-of-39) in the two meetings in Atlanta.
Coaches praise Nolan
After Nolan scored 25 points in Game 1, Dream coach Marynell Meadors, a former head coach for USA Basketball, singled her out while praising Detroit’s talent level and playoff experience. “Let me just say, Deanna Nolan is one of the greatest players I’ve seen,” she said. “She is so talented and I can say this, I think she should be on the Olympic team because I think she can help us win.”
Nolan also had three assists and two steals Wednesday, though her contributions went well beyond the box score. She drew a technical foul midway through the third quarter after not getting the foul call on a missed lay-up. To that point, Detroit had shot just six free throws all night. Their collective fire sufficiently stoked, the Shock began its pivotal 19-0 run soon thereafter.
“Nolan is an emotional player,” Shock coach Rick Mahorn said. “She got the technical and that usually turns her up, it gets her going and once you get her going she’s tough to stop.”
If Nolan is limited in any respect by her concussion in Game 2, even more minutes could be had for Shavonte Zellous, who already received a bump in playing time when Katie Smith was sidelined with seven games left. She had 12 points in 24 minutes in Game 1. The rookie posted a season-high 25 points at Atlanta June 26, setting numerous franchise records by making 17 of 19 free throws in the 96-86 defeat.
Zellous led a parade to the free-throw line, as the Shock attempted a season-high 40 free throws. A similar display would be a welcomed by Detroit fans, who watched the Dream in Game 1 shoot twice as many free throws as the Shock, 30-14.
Teams try to avoid miscues
Nolan warns against reading too much into the regular-season games, however. The struggles in Atlanta, she said, were less about being on the road as they were an indication of the team’s poor focus. They have come a long way even since Aug. 13, when the Shock committed 19 turnovers and shot 39 percent from the field in an 80-75 defeat to the Dream.
“It was like, during the regular season, even though they won [the series] 3-1, it was us beating ourselves,” she said. “They played us tough but at the same time, we only needed that one rebound or stop to pull it out.”
The Dream certainly feel like they beat themselves in Game 1, committed 19 turnovers that led to 19 Detroit points. Taking care of the basketball is a major concern for Atlanta now that they know they’ve lost starting point guard Shalee Lehning for the season. She was injured in the regular-season finale and has since undergone left shoulder surgery.
“We had a lot of turnovers we don’t normally have and they capitalized on them,” Meadors said. “I think for Friday’s game we’re definitely going to have to make those adjustments and take care of the ball a little bit better and then go to the boards a little bit more than they what we did, especially in the second half.”