Shock Strikes It Rich - For the Moment.
UNCASVILLE, Conn. – If you’re going to beat the odds, you might as well do it at a place in which the house wins substantially either at the casino action next door or in the Mohegan Sun Arena where the WNBA’s Connecticut Sun had been unbeaten at home this season until Saturday afternoon.
The Detroit Shock, scrambling to get back into the playoff hunt, hit the jackpot against the Eastern Conference leaders and WNBA’s best team, 75-66.
The triumph brought the Shock bunch to 9-12, a record that is baffling if one considers Detroit’s effort against the Sun, which finished at 3-1 on the season.
“I think our heart played a role today,” Shock coach Bill Laimbeer said afterwards. “We played really hard from start to finish and we did what we needed to do.
“We didn’t turn the ball over, we controlled the glass, and we were very patient and that was the key to the ballgame.”
Unlike some recent previous Detroit overall adventures, this time the Shock did not crumble down the stretch, especially in the face of another Sun rally that has become a trademark of last season’s WNBA runnersup.
Detroit had a 16-point lead at 61-45 with 7 minutes, 18 seconds left to play in the game when the Sun began to roll, slicing the deficit down to a mere three points at 63-60 with 2:55 to go.
Sun second-year point guard Lindsay Whalen expected her team to prevail again as it drew near the Shock.
“I thought so,” the former Minnesota star said. “I thought, one score, you get a stop, another score and stop, and you’re up.”
The Sun could not get any closer, however, in part on the play of Plenette Pierson, a former Texas Tech star who was acquired on June 29th in a trade with the Phoenix Mercury.
Pierson, a 6-foot-2 forward, scored on an inside play and hit a foul shot that helped stop the Sun charge. She finished with 17 points.
“That’s why we got her,” Laimbeer said. “We have looked at her ever since the (2003) draft. We were unable to get her and took Cheryl (Ford) instead. We have covered her for a long time and today she showed why we liked her.”
Pierson talked about the mind-set of her team heading into the nationally-televised encounter.
“We definitely wanted to make a statement and we wanted to show everybody we can play basketball and tonight we played Detroit Shock basketball,” Pierson said.
She said Laimbeer had told her when she arrived of Detroit’s desires to eventually land her on the roster.
“He told me he wanted me before,” Pierson said. “Finally the time came for me to come here and it has been nothing but great for me.”
As for her heroics late in the game, she added, “That’s my aggressive nature. It’s the key to doing what I do best and that’s going to the basket and try to get easy shots, and they happen to fall for me along with a couple of and ones (foul shots).”
Deanna Nolan led the Shock with 19 points, followed by Pierson’s scoring total, Elaine Powell’s 14 points, and Cheryl Ford’s 11 that helped give her a double double off 13 rebounds.
Margo Dydek had 16 for the Sun, followed by Taj McWilliams Franklin’s 15 points, and Whalen’s 12 poins.
The Sun shot themselves in the foot, but it was an injury-free incident considering that coach Mike Thibault’s team couldn’t hit much of anything off Connecticut’s 27.1 percent effort from the field.
“We had a bad offensive game,” he said. “Similar to the half we had against New York in the first half against New York the other night. We had a lot of good open looks, and we didn’t make them.
“Normally, it’s a strength of our team but when you combine Katie (Douglas), Nykesha (Sales) and Lindsay shooting 5-for-30 among the three of them, it’s hard to win. It’s just hard to win.”
Speaking of victories, the loss prevented the Sun from setting an all-time franchise record for triumphs _ they currently stand at 18-6.
The Detroit domination of Connecticut this season is akin to two seasons ago when the Shock won the title but were 0-4 on the season against the Charlotte Sting.
They were spared any playoff miseries because Connecticut upset Charlotte to win the first round in the East.
Things have gotten a little testy between these two teams recently, especially after the last game when Laimbeer and Thibault made some remarks to each other during the handshakes afterwards.
So the crowd of 8,401 inside the Mohegan Sun Arena wondered what was the cause of Laimbeer taking a timeout with 22.8 seconds to play and the game firmly in Shock hands.
“I wanted to congratulate our team,” Laimbeer said. “I thought they played a very fine ballgame and I wanted to call a 20-second timeout to get everybody together.
“We talked about before the game we are embarking on a new direction as a ball club today and today is the day to step up and show it.”
The Shock return home on Sunday to host Phoenix, a team currently making a run to catch a playoff spot in the West.
Connecticut travels to New York for a Tuesday night encounter with the Liberty in Madison Square Garden.
The Sun still have a one-game advantage on Sacramento for best overall record in the league and also hold the tiebreaker against the Monarchs with a 2-0 sweep.
So where have I been?
Working the print side.
But since several of you have observed my silence here for almost a month, I’ll try to be a little more consistent in cyber space.
In fact,I have a little group participation deal for you fans with local Philly Big 5 knowledge in women's hoops.
Now, the trick is to get to the other side of New York against the weekend crush.