Brian’s Courtside Blog - August 31 vs. Detroit
Before tonight’s game, Fowles was honored along with Team USA and Shock forward/guard Katie Smith, for their gold medal win in Beijing. It was quite the moment as everyone in attendance rose to their feet to show their support for what the pair had accomplished just over a week ago.
The Sky came into tonight’s game having won their first two games since the Olympic break ended. The feeling in the arena all night long was that of a playoff atmosphere, and in my opinion, the Sky’s playoffs started as the Olympic break ended. Coming into tonight’s game the Sky were only 2.5 games out of the final playoff spot in the East.
Early on it appeared that the Shock were going to feed newly acquired Taj McWilliams-Franklin and Kara Braxton the ball down low to try and force Candice Dupree and Fowles into foul trouble.
It is great to see Fowles back playing at full strength. She truly is something to watch. When she grabs a rebound she is almost a head above everyone else! I truly expect the Sky to make a major push towards the playoffs in the remaining two weeks of the season behind the play of Fowles. If she can continue to play like she did in the Olympics, the rest of the WNBA is in for a scare.
The Sky jumped out to a quick 8-0 lead to start the game and set the tone for the remainder of the night…complaining, something Shock Head Coach Bill Laimbeer would do all evening.
As Laimbeer signaled to Elaine Powel to call for timeout he muttered to himself, “Come on, come on.”
As the game continued along, Laimbeer appeared to get more and more frustrated with each foul that was called on the Shock. From my vantage point, I was in for a treat as the WNBA’s most animated coach was in rare form…and I was able to hear every word out of his mouth!
“We are going to get cheated guys, keep playing through it, they (the referees) are not going to call anything,” said Laimbeer to his players during a dead ball, clearly trying to play mind games with the referees.
Laimbeer began to pace the sidelines shaking his head as if the refs were out to get him. For the duration of the first quarter Laimbeer continued to glance down towards Assistant Coach Rick Mahorn and shake his head. It’s quite funny to watch these two as they really believe their team does no wrong.
A foul was called on the Shock in the middle of the second quarter that Laimbeer and Mahorn thought was mistakenly called on one of their players that was sitting on the bench. Laimbeer stormed towards the stats crew at the scorers table and yelled, “WHAT ARE YOU DOING!? WHO IS THE FOUL ON?!”
The referees immediately came over to Laimbeer and barked right back at him telling him to back up and head towards the Shock bench. Apparently the referees had singled the wrong number to the stats crew, the problem was immediately corrected.
Minutes later after another foul was called on the Shock, Laimbeer rose to his feet and yelled to the refs, “We want the same call, the frustration is building because you are not calling it both ways.”.
Towards the end of the first half as McWilliams-Franklin made her way off the court towards the Shock bench, Laimbeer angrily said to her, “Now you know what it’s like to play for the Shock. I told you, they aren’t going to help us in anyway.”
My question for “Big Bill” is why do you worry so much about the officiating and the fouls being called and not focus on the play of the game? At several points throughout the game Laimbeer was more focused on the refs than anything else going on.
With just under 6 minutes to play in the game, Jia Perkins blocked a shot and immediately took the ball and sprinted down the floor towards the left side of the lane. As Perkins hit a fade-away jump shot to give the Sky a 72-65 lead, Laimbeer stood up off the bench and ferociously called for a timeout as he screamed to his players to get back on the bench.
Watching this take place along with and the intensity of the game, players and coaches, you would have thought this was the final game of the WNBA Finals. Clearly neither team was remotely content with losing.
Midway through the 4th quarter during a timeout, the cha-cha slide took place on the court…a Sky tradition. As fans filed onto the court to partake in the fun, security lined the Detroit bench with tape so fans could not interfere with their space. Out of anger Laimbeer walked into the tape and ripped it into shreds as he made his way towards his players.
Soon after McWilliams-Franklin gave the Shock a 77-75 lead with a sweeping hook shot from the middle of the lane. Dupree answered McWilliams-Franklin with a shot of her own that tied the game up at 77-77 with less than one minute to go in regulation.
As the tightly contested game moved into overtime, Dupree was fouled while shooting a jump shot with 47 seconds to go. Dupree made good on both of her free-throws to give the Sky an 82-79 lead.
Shock center Kara Braxton then drove the lane and converted a wide open lay-up with 5 seconds left to get the score to 82-81.
Coming out of the timeout following Braxton’s basket the Sky’s inbounds pass went out of bounds and gave the Shock one last chance to pull off the victory.
As Laimbeer stood in front of me and yelled at Katie Smith to start the out-of-bounds play, Alexis Hornbuckle triggered the inbounds pass to Smith who fired up a long three-pointer that never had a chance. As the horn sounded Smith punched the top of the scorers table out of pure frustration as she looked back towards Hornbuckle.
The Sky were victorious in one of the most exciting games of the season 82-81, and picked up .5 games on the idle Indiana Fever to move two games out of the final playoff spot in the East.
An interesting note, after the game ended Laimbeer walked off the court as the buzzer sounded and did not shake hands with Sky Head Coach Steven Key. I remember when Laimbeer and the rest of the Detroit Pistons did this to the Chicago Bulls after the Bulls defeated them in the playoffs on their way to their first ever championship. Apparently Laimbeer let the frustration level of the loss get the best of him tonight.
With their third consecutive win you can really see the Sky starting to gel and become a playoff contender. Don’t miss a second of the Sky’s remaining 4 home games as they push towards their first ever playoff appearance. You can get tickets to the final Sky home games below by calling 866.SKY.WNBA and to be a part of something special!
Thursday, September 4 vs. Seattle @ 7pm
Tuesday, September 9 vs. Washington @ 7pm
Friday, September 12 vs. New York @ 7:30
Sunday, September 14 vs. Houston @ 3pm