Shock Take 2-1 Lead In WNBA Finals

Wednesday, September 12th 2007, 9:53 am
By: News On 6

PHOENIX (AP) _ That blowout loss at home didn't derail Detroit after all.

The Shock are back on track after beating the Phoenix Mercury 88-83 on Tuesday night to take a 2-1 lead in the WNBA finals.

Detroit can wrap up its second title in a row, and third in five seasons, with another road victory Thursday night in Game 4 of the best-of-5 series.

This time, the Shock didn't get caught up in the Mercury's ultra up-tempo style.

``We saw the Shock focus on how we do business,'' Detroit coach Bill Laimbeer said. ``A quiet calm about us, a confidence about us, a determination that we were going to come and compete to win a basketball game.''

The coolest of all was Katie Smith. The 33-year-old Detroit forward scored 22 points, one shy of her career playoff high. She made 4-of-8 3-pointers, including 3-for-4 in an 11-point third quarter.

``The defining moment of the game was her three or four shots that she made in a row there,'' Laimbeer said. ``She knew it was her time to make those shots, and she did.''

Phoenix, meanwhile, shot 35 percent, including a miserable 5-for-31 on 3s, in front of a loud home crowd of 12,024.

``We're a shooting team,'' Mercury coach Paul Westhead said, ``so when you're not making shots, it really gets tough on you.''

The only difference between this one and Saturday's 98-70 Phoenix victory in Game 2 in Detroit was accuracy, the Mercury's Penny Taylor said.

``Same looks we had in the last game that we made,'' she said. ``Tonight we didn't. And we played hard. We got the offensive rebounds, the shots we missed we just kept on missing.''

Detroit took the lead for good in the game's first 4 minutes. Phoenix stayed close, but could never quite catch up.

Deanna Nolan scored nine of her 20 points in the fourth quarter. She sank a crucial 3-pointer with 1:53 to go, then sealed the victory with four consecutive free throws in the final 8.3 seconds.

Diana Taurasi scored 22 for the Mercury. Tangela Smith scored 17 but made only 6 of 17 shots for Phoenix. She was 0-for-6 on 3s. Taylor was in foul trouble most of the night but still played 33 minutes and had 16 points and 14 rebounds for the Mercury.

The game came to an ugly conclusion when, according to Taurasi, Detroit's Plenette Pierson took a swing at Taylor. The two squared off and both received technicals.

``It was a cheap shot at the end of the game,'' Taurasi said. ``Whenever that happens, you can hurt somebody that way. I think the league should look at it. You get suspended for cursing, you should get suspended for slapping someone.''

Taurasi was suspended for two regular-season games for her conduct toward officials in a game against Detroit on June 22.

After this one, the hot-tempered Taurasi confronted a league official outside the news conference room and loudly let her views be known.

Kelly Miller made two free throws with 2:16 to play to cut the lead to 79-77, but Nolan made a 3-pointer to put the Shock up 82-77 1:53 from the finish.

Phoenix never got closer than three, but had numerous chances to tie it, but either misfired or committed a turnover.

``In the last minute, man, we gave them every opportunity to get back in this game,'' Laimbeer said. ``All the second shots that we didn't put a body on anybody.''

Detroit's patience on offense kept the Mercury out of high gear much of the night.

``There are a lot of things we can clean up,'' Katie Smith said, ``but I think our offense really helped us with our defense.''

The Mercury's season-long free-throw accuracy deserted them down the stretch. They were 6-for-10 from the line in the final 1:05 and finished 28-for-38. Detroit was 12-for-15.

Laimbeer credited his team for not getting upset over the disparity.

``Indiana (in the conference finals), we lost our brain, we got frustrated by it, and we let it affect us,'' he said. ``Today we kept our focus and played right through it.''