Thursday, August 31, 2006 Updated: September 1, 2:08 PM ET
Can Detroit put drama aside in Game 2?
By Mechelle Voepel Special to ESPN.com
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- If what happened to the Detroit Shock in Game 1 Wednesday happened to most teams, you might think the WNBA Finals were all but over.
At one point Wednesday, Shock coach Bill Laimbeer was overheard telling his assistants that Cheryl Ford (background) "brought the attitude tonight."
But this is the Shock, the team that seems to get the fun out of dysFUNction more often than not. Drama is just part of the landscape in Detroit.
Case in point: Wednesday night coach Bill Laimbeer benches Swin Cash, has his usual dustup with Cheryl Ford and does the predictable jaw calisthenics with the officials. Ruth Riley accomplishes nothing on court; Cash does even less.
Ford has 25 points and eight rebounds, but seems to be doing this on an island. Meanwhile on another island, Katie Smith scores 21 and is the Shock's lone serious perimeter threat.
On a third island, Deanna Nolan has 14 points, seven rebounds and five assists. But she misses eight shots on a night when Detroit needs her to be nearly perfect from the field to have a chance.
Detroit gives up 95 points, and afterward in the locker room, some reporters are trying to figure out who is mad, how mad she is, what she said to Laimbeer, what he said to her and in reality, none of it may make a bit of difference for Friday's Game 2 at the Palace of Auburn Hills.
"We have some very strong-willed individuals in our locker room that, if they want to do it, they resolve collectively," Laimbeer said. "I'm very confident they will pull it together and get it done."
This is just the way it is with Detroit. Laimbeer barks, some players bark back. Sometimes they all end up laughing, sometimes they don't. Often, they end up kicking their opponent's tail. But other times, they kick their own.
This is not to say Sacramento needed any help from the Shock on Wednesday to beat them. But Detroit still provided it.
However, as anyone who has observed the Shock could tell you, Friday could be an entirely different story. Laimbeer could be wearing his trademark smirk while the Shock run the Monarchs out of the building. The big difference might not be with X's and O's, but simply with how hard his team is willing to play.
Because, as Smith said, "That's the one thing [the Monarchs] bring every night: the effort and the energy."
And it's also the one thing you can't always be sure you'll see from Detroit. A team really can't guard Sacramento with halfheartedness.
Detroit knows that Kara Lawson and Nicole Powell are dangerous 3-point threats. The Shock has to make those two work a lot harder for anything they get. Detroit didn't do that Wednesday.
Detroit also realizes that Sacramento has a very deep bench with players who aren't just filling in time while the stars are sitting. The Monarchs' reserves are intent on playing just like they are the starters.
Indeed, Sacramento's bench did hurt Detroit on Wednesday. The Monarchs got a double payoff: Yolanda Griffith and DeMya Walker got in some resting time while Sacramento still managed to keep the Shock at bay.
Detroit is not the most cohesive unit, to put it mildly. When things start to go wrong, the Shock might pull together or might disintegrate entirely. The good thing is that it seems as if most everybody involved with the Shock accepts this and doesn't dwell too long -- if at all -- on the disastrous games they sometimes wind up playing.
Ford put it like this: "We've got to let this one go. We've got to talk about it, let it roll off your back and move on. You can't hold grudges."
Mechelle Voepel of The Kansas City Star is a regular contributor to ESPN.com. She can be reached at email@example.com.