Brian’s Courtside Blog - June 28, vs. Detroit

Hey, Sky fans, Brian here again from the scorer’s table. Tonight Sky hosts arch rival and 2007 Eastern Conference Champion Detroit Shock. The Sky have lost their last 5 games and need a win to get back on track, as they play 8 of their next 12 games away from home. I know the season is still young, but you do not want to fall too far behind in the standings. So it’s a big, big game for the Sky.

This is one of the games that I had circled on the schedule as soon as it came out. The Shock games are always big ones, and there’s the additional excitement that Shock Head Coach Bill Laimbeer brings to the game. Laimbeer, in my opinion, is the league’s most animated coach.

As the Sky went on a run midway through the second quarter to extend their lead to 29-18, Laimbeer began to impatiently pace the sidelines with a look of anger and disgust on his face. After a foul was called away from the ball on Cheryl Ford on the defensive end, Laimbeer speed-walked his way to the half court stripe and began screaming at the top of his lungs, “Same way down here, that’s cheap…CHEAP!”

After every dead ball or foul called, I catch myself turning my head to check out how Laimbeer is reacting. He truly lives and dies by each possession -- it’s almost as if the WNBA Championship is on the line every trip down the floor, and when his team fails he is sure to let them know.

As Laimbeer stormed off the court at halftime, the Sky owned a 13-point lead behind 14 points from Jia Perkins. I feel Perkins has been the Sky’s most dominant player and I think she deserves a spot on this year’s Eastern Conference All-Star team – well, if there was going to be one, which there isn’t, because of the Olympics. (Have you noticed we haven’t been voting for All-Stars??) Coming into tonight’s game, Perkins was averaging 17.1 points and 2.25 steals per game. Good enough to rank her 11th and 3rd in the league respectively.

With Perkins’ first made free throw of the evening, she set a WNBA record for most consecutive free throws made, surpassing LaToya Thomas’ record of 28 set back in 2004 with the San Antonio Silver Stars. Jia has made 34 consecutive free throws... she must be the reason we’re not the absolute worst free-throw shooting team in the league (we’re the second worst).

As the second half began, Laimbeer never sat down, walking up and down the sidelines barking out instructions. “Can you imagine what he’s like when he comes home and his dinner is not on the table,” said a member of the Detroit radio team seated to my left.

Toward the end of the third quarter, Chasity Melvin was called for an offensive foul on Kara Braxton as the two battled for position down low. Melvin and the rest of the Sky players disagreed with the call. Braxton said something to Melvin as she ran down court. Before the ball was put in play, Laimbeer walked over to one of the refs and whispered something to him with a smile on his face. If only we could mic him...

As the Sky entered the 4th quarter with a 13 point lead, all I could think of was “please do not let this one get away.” Early on in the 4th, Katie Smith was ejected from the game after two technicals for arguing with the referees. Laimbeer immediately began yelling at the refs that “Double standards are very frustrating.” Once the refs came over to him, he let them know repeatedly with his finger in their faces, “We now only have 8 players…” Before the game I overheard Laimbeer jokingly ask Elaine Powell if she knew of anyone who wanted to sign an emergency contract with the Shock as the team only had 9 active players tonight. (Powell didn’t dress and Pierson has a knee sprain, although she was dressed and did some warm-ups with the team.)

After the Sky shot the technical fouls called on Smith, the ball was put back into play, but the Shock only had 4 players on the court. The Sky’s KB Sharp was telling the refs, while at the same time Shock Assistant Coach Rick Mahorn jumped off the bench to let Laimbeer know. Laimbeer almost grabbed the ref and shouted, as I am sure everyone in the UIC Pavilion heard, “COME ON…PAY ATTENTION.” You have 30 seconds after an ejection or a player fouls out to replace the player. Laimbeer used the full 30 seconds, just walking up and down in front of his bench, not sending anyone in until the very last moment. He’s something else.

The Sky was able to hold on to their lead and end their losing streak, defeating the Shock 76-59. Tonight marked the 5th time the Shock have lost this season, all 5 have come on the road.

The Sky will next take to the court on Tuesday, July 1 at 7pm when they travel to Minnesota to take on the Lynx. The two teams previously met on May 29 – the Sky lost 75-69. Be sure to listen to the game on WVON 1690AM, or you can catch it streaming at wvon.com. We have a new chat room on the website, too – it’s fun to chat with other fans while you’re listening to the game.

On the celebrity look out, Cleveland Browns Head Coach Romeo Crennel was in the house tonight. Crennel came out to support Sky Head Coach Steven Key, who is a family friend. As a big NFL fan, I think the Browns are one of the teams to keep your eye on this season. Who knows, maybe the Bears and “Brownies” will be playing in next year’s Big Game.

See you back at UIC Pavilion on July 10. Hopefully with 2 more wins under our belts.