AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) -- Bill Laimbeer is fond of referring to
Cheryl Ford as a "beast."
Even Laimbeer was surprised at the performance
of his All-Star power forward on Thursday.
Ford pulled down a postseason-record 23 rebounds and scored 11
points as the Detroit Shock beat the Connecticut Sun
70-59 in Game 1 of the WNBA Eastern Conference finals.
"That's just a Herculean effort," Laimbeer said. "She's been
very driven and focused all year, and it has been a joy to watch."
Ford, who broke the WNBA's single-season rebounding record this
year, went past Lisa Leslie's postseason rebounding mark of 18 late
in the third quarter, then broke her own overall franchise record
of 22 in the fourth. The league record for rebounds in a game is 24
by Chamique Holdsclaw.
"It just seemed like the ball was falling right into my
hands," she said.
Ford struggled in the opening moments of the game, as 7-foot-2
Margo Dydek grabbed four rebounds in the first 56 seconds, but the
much-smaller Ford outrebounded her 23-4 in the final 39 minutes.
"Bill just told us to box her out earlier," said Ford, the
daughter of NBA Hall of Famer Karl Malone. "I was just trying to
get to everything I could."
Connecticut, which was outscored 22-10 in the fourth quarter,
needs to win Saturday and Sunday at home to advance to their third
straight WNBA Finals. The Sun missed 51 of 73 field-goal attempts.
"Obviously, we have our work cut out for us," Connecticut
coach Mike Thibault said. "I thought our defense was fairly good
and our rebounding was actually good for long stretches. We just
couldn't make a shot. Our frontcourt shot 25 percent -- if they just
hit their layups, we win this game by 10 points."
Detroit is trying to get back to the championship round for the
first time since winning the 2003 title.
"Tonight, we simply did what we were supposed to do," Laimbeer
said. "Now we have to go win one in hostile territory."
Deanna Nolan led all scorers with 21 points, while Katie Smith
added 17 and Plenette Pierson had 11 off the bench. Nolan and Ford
are averaging a combined 32.3 points in the playoffs.
"Those two were terrific," Thibault said. "They just fed off
Connecticut, which was missing leading scorer Katie Douglas to a
foot injury, got 13 points each from Lindsay Whalen and Erin
Phillips. Douglas was in uniform and warmed up before the game, but
Thibault said it was just to check her progress, not in hopes of
playing in Game 1.
Nykesha Sales, who went 1-for-17 from the floor in the
first-round win over Washington, missed five of her six shots
"I've never been through anything like this in my life," Sales
said. "It's hard, because I don't want to force things, but I also
don't want to pass up good shots. Right now, I just have no
The Sun led 49-48 going into the fourth, but had no answer for
Detroit's defense. The Sun didn't get a field goal in the first
5:46 of the fourth, missing their first 10 shots as the Shock built
a 63-51 edge.
The Shock are now 4-0 against the Sun this season, including two
wins in Connecticut.
"That doesn't mean anything any more," Ford said. "Those
games are in the past. This is the playoffs now."
Detroit trailed 23-9 late in the first quarter, but finished the
period with a 12-2 run to pull within four. Ford had seven points
in the run.
The Shock continued the rally into the second, and went ahead
32-30 on Smith's 3-pointer with 2:14 left in the half.
Detroit led 36-32 at the intermission, led by Ford's nine points
and league-record 16 rebounds. Leslie had 14 rebounds in one half
of a postseason game, while several players have had 14 in
The teams traded the advantage throughout the third period, with
Connecticut building a 49-43 lead before the Shock got the final
five points of the quarter.