Cash, Shock put in disappointing Game 1 performance

Updated: August 31, 2006, 2:51 PM ET
By Mechelle Voepel | Special to ESPN.com

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- The WNBA public relations folks handed reporters a note sheet after Wednesday's Game 1 of the finals, reminding us when media availability was for Thursday.

Swin Cash
Terrence Vaccaro/Getty ImagesOn Wednesday, Detroit's Swin Cash was held scoreless for the first time this season as the Shock fell behind 0-1 in the WNBA Finals.

It listed the Monarchs' time as 1:30 to 2 p.m. And the Sun's time as 1-1:30. Uh … yep, that's right, the Sun. It was an inadvertent typo, no doubt, but one that seemed unfortunately accurate for Detroit.

Since the Shock didn't really show up for Game 1 of the WNBA Finals, maybe the team wasn't going to appear any other time, either. Defending champion Sacramento routed host Detroit 95-71 to take the early edge in the best-of-five series which resumes here Friday.

Hey, Connecticut, how fast can you get to the Motor City?

As good as Sacramento looked Wednesday, maybe even a tag-team effort by the Shock and the Sun wouldn't have beaten the Monarchs. Detroit all by itself had no chance. It got just two points and no rebounds from a foul-plagued and frustrated Ruth Riley and no points/one rebound from Swin Cash.

Cash wasn't in foul trouble, though, she was in Bill Laimbeer trouble.

When I walked up to the Palace of Auburn Hills two hours before the game, I watched as the ever-present WNBA TV people filmed Cash getting out of her vehicle and entering the building. Riveting stuff. It turned out to be almost as much camera time as Cash got all night.

She played just more than 11 minutes total, a little more than two in the third quarter. After that, she was a spectator like the other 9,581 in the building. Cash went from our ESPN.com pre-game pick as "X-factor" to "non-factor."

"She showed up to play a basketball game, didn't show up to win a basketball game," Laimbeer said. "It's just one of those things where she wasn't into it, and we decided to not play her."

What? Not "into" the WNBA Finals? And how weird is that -- especially considering that in the decisive Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals, Cash had 16 points, eight rebounds and three assists?

As for her interaction with Laimbeer in the first half, Cash said, "He was telling me one of the reasons why I came out, and I was letting him know that it wasn't my missed assignment. So that's about it."

Bill Laimbeer, Cheryl Ford
Dan Lippitt/Getty ImagesAt one point Wednesday, Shock coach Bill Laimbeer was overheard telling his assistants that Cheryl Ford (background) "brought the attitude tonight."

Asked then if that was something she'd experienced before with a coach during a game, Cash said, "No, but I'm a professional, I come to work every single day. On the bench, I cheer for my teammates and on the court I do what I can to help my team win.

"You have to stay ready, stay prepared. He's the coach, he makes the decisions. I don't have control of how much I play. I only have control of what I can do when I'm on the floor. … I think the coaching staff and the players have to keep our composure. When you're in a heated battle, I guess … "

Cash didn't finish that sentence, and she didn't need to. Most of the time, it seems Laimbeer's personality spurs his players on, and as a team the Shock at full-throttle with confidence can be a relentless force. The Sun can attest to that. In Sunday's game, Connecticut appeared aggravated, frustrated and out of sorts.

Wednesday, though, that's how the Shock looked against the Monarchs. A lot of that was Sacramento, which shot 53 percent from the floor. But the Shock were plenty responsible for their own misery, too.

TV viewers saw and heard Laimbeer and Cheryl Ford have an altercation, too, in the final quarter. Afterward, though, Ford said, "He knows what he's talking about."

She pointed at the dry-erase board in the Shock locker room and the five things Laimbeer had written as reasons for the loss. They were the same five things he has been stressing coming into the Finals:
• rebounds (Sacramento won that stat, 31-29);
• turnovers (Detroit had 24, Sacramento 15);
• free throws (Detroit was 16 of 23 from the line)
• loose balls and fighting for post position.

The latter two are "effort" categories that you can judge even without specific numbers. Anyone could tell the Monarchs won those going away.

"It's the playoffs, man, and we know it's a different ballgame," said Ford, who had 25 points. "You've got to come to play the whole 40 minutes. We didn't, and you saw what happened."

Clearly, the Shock can't afford even one more night of such discord, petulance, lethargy and bad attitude.

Katie Smith has been with the Shock only a season and a half, but she knows how things can go with Detroit.

"We can be inconsistent," said Smith, who had 21 points and at least kept trying to get her team back on track. "We have to use the adversity of missing a shot or letting somebody score. Like … (Kara) Lawson hit that first one off me, I backed off a little bit. And I didn't want to (give up) another one.

"That's a mind-set, like, 'OK, I have to pick it up a notch. She's challenging me so I have to step up.' "

But Detroit didn't do that. It allowed Sacramento to score a WNBA Finals single-game record 95 points. It saw the Monarchs' duo of Lawson and Nicole Powell make 10-of-15 3-pointers. It never got closer than within 14 points of the Monarchs in the second half.

"Tomorrow we'll go look at the film and figure out what happened," Cash said. "I think the great thing about a five-game series is you have opportunities to change.

"It's professional sports; you have to have a short memory. Just forget about the last one."

Mechelle Voepel of The Kansas City Star is a regular contributor to ESPN.com. She can be reached at mvoepel123@yahoo.com.

Mechelle Voepel joined ESPN.com in 1996 and covers women's college hoops, the WNBA, the LPGA, and additional collegiate sports for espnW.

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