UNCASVILLE, Conn. (AP) -- The Connecticut Sun got their offensive
rhythm back and an emotional lift from Katie Douglas.
The All-Star game MVP returned to the starting lineup despite a
hairline fracture in her right foot to spark the Sun to a 77-68 win
over the Detroit Shock on Saturday, extending the Eastern
Conference finals to a deciding third game.
"First and foremost, I didn't want to be a distraction to
them," Douglas said. "Each and every one of them has supported me
and I just didn't want to distract them, but I wanted to give them
something if I could."
Although not 100 percent, she provided a lift during one of the
big swings of the game, hitting a 3-pointer and a 14-foot jump shot
during a 17-5 run in the third quarter to give the Sun a 56-43
lead. When she hit the 3 with 7:46 to play in the third quarter,
Douglas pumped her fists and screamed and her teammates on the
floor patted her on the back. It brought a thunderous ovation from
the more than 7,000 fans at the Mohegan Sun Arena.
"It felt really good. I knew that was my first shot. I
definitely wasn't going to try to force anything tonight," Douglas
said. "I definitely knew that I screamed and shouted because it
was a definite burden and relief off of my back."
Douglas was injured in last week's conference playoff clinching
game against the Washington Mystics. That set up the conference
finals with Detroit, who had beaten Connecticut in all four
previous meetings this year. Without Douglas on Friday, the Shock
beat the Sun 70-59 at The Palace at Auburn Hills.
"It was do-or-die, and I thought we played, for the most part,
a pretty terrific game, especially on the defensive end," Sun
coach Mike Thibault said. "Now you have two really good teams
playing for a chance to go to the finals."
The deciding game is Sunday night in Uncasville.
The Shock rallied in the second half with a 13-5 run to cut the
deficit to 60-55 at the end of the third quarter. They pulled
within three points in the fourth quarter and trailed 70-67 with 53
seconds left, but the Sun closed out the game with a 7-1 run on a
layup by Taj McWilliams-Franklin and free throws from Lindsay
Whalen and Nykesha Sales.
"No doubt it's disappointing that we couldn't close the series
out," Detroit coach Bill Laimbeer said. "We talked about how it
was the hardest game we were going to play and we didn't get the
job done. I don't think we played nearly as hard as we had to. Our
focus wasn't there."
McWilliams-Franklin led Connecticut with 18 points despite
playing the fourth quarter in foul trouble. Margo Dydek scored nine
of her 17 points in the third quarter. Asjha Jones added eight
points and eight rebounds.
After missing 103 shots in their last two playoff games, the Sun
finally found their rhythm offensively, going 25-of-59 from the
floor. Sales, who was 2-for-23 in the playoffs before Saturday, was
4-for-10 for 15 points. It was the first time she scored in double
figures in four playoff games.
"I'm just proud of how we bounced back," Thibault said. "We
finally made some shots, relaxed a little bit, and we got a lot of
contributions from a lot of people tonight."
Deanna Nolan had 27 points on 12-of-17 shooting to pace the
Shock. Cheryl Ford added 15 points, but a game after grabbing a
WNBA playoff-record 23 rebounds, had only eight boards. After
scoring 17 points in Game 1 in Detroit, Katie Smith was held to two
points on 1-of-9 shooting.
"We stayed a little closer to her," Thibault said. "I thought
we lost sight of her [in Game 1] a couple of times trying to help
defend other players. We did a better job tonight, but I'm sure
they will make some adjustments on Sunday and we'll try to
anticipate what they are."