Thursday, September 7, 2006
It's back to Detroit for decisive Game 5
SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- The WNBA Finals have been
unpredictable at almost every turn, so there's probably no point in
prognostication about the decisive fifth game in Detroit on
That didn't stop Monarchs center Yolanda Griffith from making a
brash prediction moments after the Detroit Shock forced that finale
with a stunning 72-52 victory in Sacramento on Wednesday night.
"We're still going to get that championship!" she yelled from
center court -- mostly into the backs of disappointed, departing
fans who had just watched the Shock dominate the defending
In truth, nobody knows which club will show up with the proper
mental attitude Saturday. After back-to-back 20-point blowout wins
for both clubs in the last two games in Sacramento, the difference
in this series clearly resides in the players' heads, not on the
"Effort has determined all four games," Sacramento's Kara
Lawson said. "That's the only factor, in my eyes. They wanted
(Game 4) a little bit more, apparently. We have to get that desire
Despite wide differences in nearly every aspect of their roster
makeups and strategic approaches, these clubs have been evenly
matched. Sacramento's depth and defensive determination provided
superior results for most of the first three games, but Detroit's
five solid starters and strong mental game surfaced when the Shock
Shock coach Bill Laimbeer lambasted his players' attitudes after
Game 3, and his words must have played some role in their inspired
performance three days later. Laimbeer convinced his players
everyone wanted them to lose, and they responded with all the
intensity they lacked earlier in the series.
"There was nothing magical that the coaching staff did,"
Laimbeer said. "The Finals are about a test of wills, and who
wants it more. No question about it, we came in with a chip on our
shoulder to prove who we are."
Now Sacramento coach John Whisenant -- who's more laid back than
Laimbeer, yet still no stranger to bombastic sideline behavior --
must find a motivational groove that will shake up his roster.
"Maybe we subconsciously wanted to go back to Detroit, I don't
know," Whisenant said. "I don't think so, at least in my case.
... [The Shock] were intense and played hard, and we weren't ready
to deal with that. It will be harder to do in Detroit than it
should have been here, on our court."
The Shock took control of Game 4 when Cheryl Ford took a page
from her father's strategies, establishing low-post position that
Karl Malone would envy from the first possession onward. With
Sacramento's post players exhausting themselves on defense, the
Monarchs looked slow and tentative on offense.
"When we watched film, we knew that it was all about the
post," said Ford, who had 13 points and 10 rebounds. "It was us
not working hard to get position, and we let them get easy post
position. We knew we had to work."
The WNBA season will end in an NHL arena: The Shock, forced from
their suburban Palace by a Mariah Carey concert, will host
Sacramento at Joe Louis Arena in downtown Detroit. The baskets and
court must be installed, and neither team will have much
familiarity with the atmosphere inside the illustrious hockey rink.
Both clubs flew back to Michigan on Thursday. Both will get one
more day of workouts and adjustments before Saturday, when the
Shock hope their fans will make the trek into downtown to see a
"We're not on our home court, but we're still on our home
court," Detroit's Deanna Nolan said. "We've played there before
in a playoff game. It's in the city now, so we're going to have
more urbanites, as you call it, and more people there."