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Detroit takes back control of WNBA Finals

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

By BOB BAUM

AP Sports Writer

PHOENIX (AP) -- The Detroit Shock turned to an old hand to lead them to their biggest road victory of the season.

Katie Smith scored 22 points, one shy of her career playoff high, to help the defending champions beat the cold-shooting Phoenix Mercury 88-83 Tuesday night and take a 2-1 lead in the WNBA finals.

The 33-year-old Detroit forward, in her 12th pro season, made 4-of-8 3-pointers, 3-for-4 in an 11-point third quarter. Phoenix, meanwhile, shot 35 percent, including a miserable 5-of-31 on 3s.

The Shock, who regrouped from a 28-point home loss in Game 2 on Saturday, can wrap up the best-of-five series and their third WNBA title since 2003 with a victory in Game 4 Thursday night in Phoenix.

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

Deanna Nolan, who scored 20, 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. Penny Taylor was in foul trouble most of the night but still played 33 minutes and had 16 points and 14 rebounds for the Mercury.

Phoenix had several chances in the final minutes.

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. Taurasi made one of two free throws, but after an offensive rebound, Tangela Smith had an open 3-pointer but missed.

Moments later, Cappie Pondexter made the first of two free throws, then Detroit lost the ball out of bounds rebounding her miss on the second. Pondexter got free for what would have been a game-tying 3, but the shot just rimmed out.

Katie Smith's two free throws made it 84-79 with 20 seconds to play. She fouled out with Phoenix down 84-81. Phoenix had another chance when Tangela Smith grabbed an offensive rebound of Miller's missed free throw.

Cheryl Ford, though, blocked Tangela Smith's outlet pass. The ball went to Nolan, who was fouled. Nolan's two free throws with 8.3 seconds to go finally sealed it.

Down by as many as 12 in the first half, the Mercury cut the lead to 58-55 on Taurasi's 3-pointer with 3:47 left in the third quarter. But Smith responded with consecutive 3s to boost the Shock lead to 64-56. Detroit led 70-64 after three.

The Mercury missed their first 10 3-pointers and were 2-for-15 at the half. Still, they trailed only 50-45 thanks to a big advantage on free throws.

Phoenix was 13-for-15 from the line in the first two quarters, to Detroit's 4-for-5.

But 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.

The Shock never trailed after a 9-0 run put them up 9-5.

Nolan's 11-footer put Detroit up 30-23 at the end of one, then Shannon Johnson made a 3-pointer, followed by a basket inside and the Shock had their biggest lead, 35-23, with 8:32 left in the second quarter.



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