Connecticut Sports Online
Laimbeer still believes his team is championship caliber
UNCASVILLE, Conn., Sept. 2, 2005 – Detroit Shock coach Bill Laimbeer still believes in his team. Even after they were swept by the Sun Friday night, 75-57. “We believe we are the best basketball team out there. We have a very talented group. But they have to want to go out there and just take the championship,” Laimbeer said.
Well, the talented Shock can watch the Sun play in the Eastern Conference finals for the third straight year, facing Indiana in a best-of-3 series beginning Tuesday in Indianapolis. After Detroit trimmed a 14-point lead to three, 70-67, on a Kara Braxton basket with 2:20 left, the Shock never scored another point. They missed five shots, had two shots blocked, missed two free throws and had a turnover.
Connecticut’s Taj McWilliams-Franklin blocked a Deanna Nolan shot with 1:40 left but Detroit controlled the rebound. Seven seconds later, Ruth Riley’s shot at the top of the circle bounced off the rim and the Sun controlled the rebound. With 47.9 seconds left, Connecticut’s Margo Dydek blocked Braxton’s four-foot jumper on the baseline.
That was it for the Shock as McWilliams-Franklin drained a fadeaway jumper right in front of the Shock bench with 21.5 seconds left to extend the lead to five. Nolan was tremendous with 23 points, including 12 points in a 19-9 second half run that lifted Detroit within three.
Lindsay Whalen scored a playoff career-high with 27 points and was 15-of-17 from the free throw line, sinking her first 13 free throws. McWilliams-Franklin had 16. Nykesha Sales had only five yet she ripped down a career-high 12 rebounds. Dydek had three blocks.
“We had a lot of people step up and do different things,” Sun coach Mike Thibault said. “We struggled offensively for a little bit but we did a lot of other things really well and we won because of our defense.”
The Sun donated proceeds ($71,170) from the contest and a Silent Auction at halftime to the American Red Cross to aid ongoing relief efforts to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina. … Before the game, Sun forward Taj McWilliams-Franklin was named the winner of the WNBA’s 2005 Kim Perrot Sportsmanship Award. … Laimbeer smiled as he entered the court before the game as the Imperial March from the Empire Strikes Back played on the stadium speakers and the crowd booed. … Twice fans wearing Swin Cash Shock jerseys got a surprise pie in the face at the end of mid-game promotions to the delight of the Sun crowd.
— GERRY deSIMAS, JR.
This was first published at the Connecticut Sports Online website.