Friday, September 8, 2006
Here's to hoping the Finals end on high note
By Mechelle Voepel
Special to ESPN.com
DETROIT -- Yes, we're really in Detroit this time, downtown, the Joe Louis Arena. As opposed to the far-flung suburb of Auburn Hills and the Palace, the Detroit Shock's home, but not the home of Game 5 of the WNBA Finals.
You've probably heard by now that Mariah Carey has a concert at the Palace on Saturday night
which reminds me: Have you and a good friend ever done this? You agree to admit a song that you would switch immediately if someone else were in the car with you, but you would listen to if you were by yourself. And you had to swear to be honest and say the first thing that had jumped into your head.
My friend said: "Straight Up" by Paula Abdul. I knew I was in trouble, because I don't think that's a totally embarrassing song to like. I'd been hoodwinked.
heaven help me, I really did
I said, "Rock Me Amadeus."
So, having admitted that (again), it doesn't seem too humiliating to say I like Mariah Carey. I don't have any of her CDs. I didn't see "Glitter" -- but then again, maybe nobody who actually likes her saw that.
I agree her lyrics are about as deep as a baby ant's bathtub. But she has some powerful pipes and amazing range, so I don't turn her off the radio when she comes on. Even if someone else is in the car.
Mariah began her career rise with "Vision of Love," and, frankly, when the WNBA Finals began, many of us had a vision of a great series. We're now going to the fifth game, but
we're still waiting for the first really good one.
Just to recap, in the opener, Sacramento scorched the nets and the Shock had no answer. In Game 2, the Monarchs were in the driver's seat before being evicted by Detroit's clobbering fourth-quarter run. Game 3 was the Sacto Express, with the Shock left at the station. Game 4 was the opposite of that, as Detroit ended the Monarchs' streak of 11 straight home playoff victories.
Now, for Game 5
about the only thing we can be sure of is that we have almost no idea what's going to happen. The Shock have the home-area edge, if not the home-arena advantage. So you might say Detroit has the momentum, except that hasn't held true game-to-game so far in these Finals.
But what the Shock probably would like the most is a dominance inside similar to what they had Wednesday at Arco Arena. Detroit coach Bill Laimbeer has said again and again that this series matchup hinged on the scoring ability of his guards. And, indeed, Katie Smith led the way with 22 points in Game 4. However, the work of the Shock's big players helped set up everything else.
"We just came together as a team, especially the posts, and showed up strong," Detroit center Cheryl Ford said. "But we're still not done. We have to play like we played Sunday. We were frustrated in the post watching film. [The Monarchs] were getting easy position, and we had to stop that."
Ford had 13 points and 10 rebounds in Game 4, while Kara Braxton came off the bench and went four of six from the field for eight points. Ruth Riley didn't score, but she concentrated on playing defense.
"That's how we like to play basketball -- to be physical down there in the paint and force teams to the perimeter," Laimbeer said. "I thought we were aggressive across the board defensively, and you could just see it grow."
Sacramento's post duo of Yolanda Griffith and DeMya Walker combined to shoot 6-of-22 from the field. And in much of the second half, the Monarchs appeared so uncomfortable trying to establish some semblance of an interior game that at one point, it seemed no one even wanted to put up a shot.
"We were so focused on what we were doing out there," Riley said. "We think it's going to be a great Game 5. I don't really question that we're going to show up again for this one."
So, yeah, it will be in the Shock's home-away-from-home, and WNBA president Donna Orender said she doesn't anticipate this sort of venue-switching happening in the future. Suffice to say, she'll do whatever possible to avoid it. But the Shock's own wooden floor is at The Joe, and I think the atmosphere just maybe might be even better than it would be in the Palace.
Joe Louis Arena, the epicenter of Hockeytown and den of the Red Wings, seems to have the feel of the fans being closer to the action than does the Palace.
At least, it looked that way just staring at the place Friday when the teams practiced. One could imagine it can get really, really loud in here.
So maybe the Finals' "great game" really is yet to come. As Mariah might say, hopefully, that's not just a sweet, sweet fantasy, baby.
Mechelle Voepel of The Kansas City Star is a regular contributor to ESPN.com. She can be reached at email@example.com.