Thursday, September 7, 2006
SACRAMENTO, Sept. 6 -- The Detroit Shock was far from finished, and it sent the WNBA finals to a decisive Game 5.
Katie Smith scored 22 points, Cheryl Ford had 13 points and 10 rebounds, and the Shock disappointed a Sacramento crowd anticipating a championship celebration with a 72-52 victory in Game 4 on Wednesday night, sending the series back to Detroit.
Saturday's finale will be played at Detroit's downtown Joe Louis Arena because the Palace in suburban Auburn Hills is hosting a Mariah Carey concert.
Swin Cash and Deanna Nolan scored eight points apiece for the Shock, which made a remarkable mental turnaround after seeming disorganized and disinterested in most of the series' first three games. After taking a six-point lead into the fourth quarter, the Shock held Sacramento to two points on 1-of-12 shooting in an improbably one-sided fourth quarter.
The Monarchs intended to duplicate last season's title celebration at Arco Arena, where they hadn't lost a playoff game in 11 tries since 2001. But the Shock broke the streak and survived elimination with Smith's scoring and all the defensive tenacity demanded by Coach Bill Laimbeer, who publicly challenged his players to hate the Monarchs before Game 4.
Nicole Powell scored all 13 of her points in the first half for the Monarchs, who shot poorly and were outrebounded 40-26, showing none of the playoff tenacity they've displayed under Coach John Whisenant.
"I don't know where to start. We were awful," Whisenant said. "We talked a good game, but we obviously weren't prepared to play."
Though Detroit seemed finished after Game 3, Laimbeer still had a couple of motivational tricks up his sleeve. He ripped the officiating, earning a fine from the WNBA, and repeatedly emphasized the us-against-the-world mentality used by the former NBA all-star center's Pistons squads while winning titles in 1989 and 1990.
"You have to hate the other team to win a series like this," Laimbeer said. "Hating the other team is the natural instinct any time, but you have to take it to the next level in a championship series. All successful championship teams absolutely have to have it."