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Detroit digs in after losing lead, Nolan

9/8/2003

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) -- In his first full season as coach of
the Detroit Shock, Bill Laimbeer has led the team from worst in the
league to Eastern Conference champions.

Sunday, Sept. 7
When Deanna Nolan went down with 5:28 to play, Elaine Powell knew someone needed to step up and be productive on offense. Powell stepped right into that role and was very impressive.

Powell gave Detroit the lead for good with 2:16 remaining, and hit a foul shot down the stretch. As we've said before, great players hit big shots and make clutch plays when the game is on the line.

The most impressive thing about Game 2, however, was Detroit's ability to battle through adversity. Heading into the Eastern Conference finals, the Shock had trailed by nine or more pints in seven of their last eight games, and were able to come back and win five of them.

Some have said Detroit is a front-running team that needs an early lead, but the Shock proved they can gut it out and rally for a victory, too.


Swin Cash scored 20 points and Deanna Nolan added 17 before
leaving with a back injury as the Detroit Shock completed a
two-game sweep of the Connecticut Sun with a 79-73 win Sunday night
and earned a berth in he WNBA finals.

"You have to give a lot of credit to the girls, but it was
really Bill who saved this franchise," team president Tom Wilson
said. "This is sort of a sports miracle. Just turning this
franchise around when everyone else was ready to pack it in is
amazing. But doing it like this is impossible."

Laimbeer took over in 2002 when Detroit was 0-10. The Shock went
on to finish a league-worst 9-23 before he revamped the roster in
the offseason.

Now the former Bad Boy not only has the Shock in the playoffs
for the first time since 1999, but they earned home court advantage
throughout, thanks to a league-leading 25-9 regular-season record.

Detroit will play the winner of Monday night's decisive Game 3
in the Sacramento-Los Angeles series.

Cash also had 10 rebounds and six assists, and fellow All-Star
Deanna Nolan added 17 before leaving with a back injury. She is
considered 50-50 for Game 1 of the finals Friday night.

Nolan was taken off the court on a stretcher after she fell
violently on her back with Detroit ahead 65-64 with 5:28 to play.
The shooting guard went up high to block a layup attempt by Nykesha
Sales and flipped over Sales' shoulder.

X-rays revealed a bruised sacrum, a triangular bone situated
near the lower end of the spinal column. She was walking around
after the game.

"At this point, it's just considered a bruise, and her status
for Friday is unclear," Laimbeer said. "If she can't play, we
have a lot of other great players."

Connecticut led 69-65 with four minutes to play, but the rest of
the game was all Detroit.

Elaine Powell put the Shock ahead 70-69 with a runner off the
glass with two minutes left.

Then Cash showed why she is one of the league's most exciting
players.

The forward sprinted for a loose ball near the Shock bench,
grabbed it and threw it blindly over her head to Kedra
Holland-Corn. Cash then sprinted for the basket, accepted a feed
from Holland-Corn, put it in and was fouled by Rebecca Lobo.

She converted the free throw for a 73-69 lead with 52 seconds to
play.

"You look at the type of play she made, and those are the type
that great players make," Laimbeer said. "She made the play of
the night when we needed it to win the game. That's what MVPs do."

Cheryl Ford made two free throws with 39 seconds left to make it
75-69 and cap a 10-0 Shock run.

The teams traded free throws the rest of the way.

The Shock, which used a dominating inside game in a 73-63
series-opening win Friday night, used more of a balanced attack on
Sunday.

Nolan was able to score from the outside while Ford, the
league's Rookie of the Year, provided a strong inside presence,
scoring a playoff-high 17 points. The daughter of NBA star Karl
Malone also pulled down 14 rebounds.

The Shock, who were 20-2 during the regular season when they
scored at least 70 points, improved to 4-0 during the playoffs when
reaching that plateau.

Each time the Sun made a run in the first half, the Shock
answered with a run of their own.

"We played as hard as we can possibly play, and it still wasn't
good enough," Sun coach Mike Thibault said. "They got their poise
back after the injury and were able to do what they needed to do."

The Sun scored five straight to pull to within 44-37 on a
3-pointer by Shannon Johnson, but Detroit responded with an
offensive rebound and put-back by Cash and a fast break runner by
Nolan for a 48-37 advantage with a minute to go.

Neither team scored in the final 60 seconds of the half.

Taj McWilliams-Franklin led the Sun with 17 points and 13
rebounds. Johnson added 16 points.