AUBURN HILLS, Mich., Aug. 31 (Ticker) -- Cheryl Ford and Bill Laimbeer won the awards, but LaToya Thomas won the game and kept her team alive.

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Postgame news conference: Play
Thomas, the runner-up to Ford in WNBA Rookie of the Year voting, scored 16 points and grabbed eight rebounds as the Cleveland Rockers led from start to finish in a 66-59 victory over the Detroit Shock, evening their best-of-three Eastern Conference first round series at 1-1.

Game 3 will be played Tuesday night at Detroit.

The Shock had won all four regular season meetings and pulled out a 76-74 victory at Cleveland in Friday's playoff opener.

Sunday had all the makings of a festive day for Detroit. Before the game, Ford, the team's starting center, was named WNBA Rookie of the Year and Laimbeer was honored as Coach of the Year.

But Cleveland was in no mood to let the Shock celebrate a playoff series victory. The Rockers raced to a 13-5 lead in the first 6 1/2 minutes, increased the advantage to as many as 15 points late in the first half and held off a second-half rally by the Shock.

"Everyone had it in our minds that we were going to stay focused and play hard," Thomas said.

Detroit pulled within five points on two occasions, but Thomas led a 7-0 run with a layup and a pair of free throws to get the lead back into double digits.

"You earn your wins and we did today," said Rockers coach Dan Hughes. "I thought we played a great game in Cleveland (in the series opener), but we didn't finish. Today, we finished it off."

Swin Cash led Detroit with 17 points and Ford finished with nine points and 11 rebounds, but hit just 2-of-9 shots from the field. Detroit shot just 28.6 percent for the game.

"I am upset that we didn't really show up with the right frame of mind," Laimbeer said. "Cleveland came out and played very solid basketball. They made us make shots and we didn't. Hopefully, we'll be able to shoot the ball better next time."

Back-to-back three-pointers by Betty Lennox and Jennifer Rizzotti helped Cleveland open a 39-24 lead with less than a minute left in the half. Lennox finished with 14 points off the bench on 6-for-9 shooting.

The Shock pulled within 55-50 on a layup by Ruth Riley with 6:18 left in the game, but Cleveland scored seven straight points over the next three minutes.