Thursday, October 2, 2008

Detroit Takes Game 1

My initial inclination was to predict before the series that San Antonio would win Game 1 because of the short turnaround for the Shock from the end of the Eastern Conference Finals, but I thought better of it. Lo and behold, rest proved not to be a factor as Detroit jumped all over the host Silver Stars in the first half and controlled the closing minutes after San Antonio rallied to tie the game. That quickly, the Shock has stolen back home-court advantage in this series.

If once is a fluke, twice a coincidence and three times a trend, it's officially time to worry about the Silver Stars. This is the third straight series where opponents have been able to score against the once-impenetrable San Antonio D. Detroit shot 47.1 percent from the field and committed just eight turnovers, which adds up to a cool 109.5 Offensive Rating. There's no way the Silver Stars can defend like that and win.

Down the stretch, it was Taj McWilliams-Franklin who came up big for the Shock by slipping behind the defense after pick-and-rolls and getting good looks. McWilliams-Franklin also turned four offensive boards into second shots and finished with 24 points on 11-of-16 shooting. Katie Smith also made some enormous shots and scored a game-high 25.

On the other end, Detroit did a terrific job of defending Becky Hammon using a variety of defenders. The Shock pushed Hammon to the baseline and used the sideline against her desire to dribble around and probe the defense until something opens up. Hammon ended up with 13 points on 4-of-10 shooting, did not make a three and had four turnovers, but her frustration late in the game told the story in a way the numbers can't possibly match.

As we look ahead to tomorrow's Game 2, San Antonio could get a key lift if Helen Darling and/or Edwige Lawson-Wade are able to return to the lineup. However, that's offset by the possibility that Plenette Pierson could play for the Shock. Either way, the Silver Stars will have to figure out a way to consistently get stops. Look for San Antonio to pay more attention to McWilliams-Franklin, which could open things up for Deanna Nolan or other perimeter players. Hammon should be able to get going, but unless the Silver Stars improve their defense, they won't even this series.

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