Shock Outlast Liberty, Advance to East Finals

Detroit 71, New York 70 (OT)

AUBURN HILLS, Mich., Aug. 28 (AP) -- Bill Laimbeer knows that Cheryl Ford might have saved the Detroit Shock's season in Game 3 of their first-round series.

He just hopes that the consequences won't be too severe.

Playing on a bad knee, Ford had 17 points and 10 rebounds in 39 minutes, as the Shock beat the New York Liberty 71-70 in overtime of the decisive Game 3 of their Eastern Conference series on Tuesday night to advance to the conference finals.

"I didn't think in my wildest dreams that I would get 39 minutes out of Cheryl tonight, but that young woman's heart is enormous,'' Laimbeer said. "People have no idea how tough that was.''

Laimbeer said that he doubts Ford will be able to play in the opener of the next round at Indiana on Friday night, but Ford strongly disagreed.

"Is he crazy?'' she said. "I'm definitely playing.''

Ford, who missed most of the season's final month with the knee injury, acknowledged she was running out of gas at the end of overtime.

"I think it is fair to say that I was definitely winded,'' said Ford, who had seven offensive rebounds. "I just tried to push through it.''

New York led by as many as 10 points in the third quarter as the Shock's All-Star guards Deanna Nolan and Katie Smith struggled from the floor. However, Ford's hard work kept Detroit alive, and Nolan and Smith combined for 20 points in the fourth quarter and overtime to pull out the victory.

"We're definitely relieved right now,'' said Nolan, who finished with 22 points. "We gave Cheryl a new nickname tonight - she's now the 'Woman-Child.'''

New York led by five points with two minutes left in overtime, but Smith hit a 3-pointer, Nolan tied the game with a jumper and Swin Cash made it 71-69 after Ford and Smith had kept a late possession alive with offensive rebounds.

"The only disappointment was that we couldn't keep them off the boards at the end,'' New York coach Pat Coyle said. "We had to go zone to stop Nolan, or she might have had 50, and when you go zone, you give up rebounds.''

After Cash's tiebreaking basket, Janel McCarville had a chance to pull the Liberty even with 3.7 seconds left but missed her second free throw, and Loree Moore couldn't keep the rebound inbounds.

"This game didn't come down to that free throw,'' Cathrine Kraayeveld said. "We had a lot of chances to win this game before Janel missed that shot.''

Kraayeveld had 16 points and rookie Tiffany Jackson scored 14 for New York, which made the postseason with a 16-18 record.

"No one expected anything from this team - we had to win four out of five just to get here,'' Coyle said. "We gave it everything we had, and hopefully, this experience will pay off for us down the road.''

After cruising to a 73-51 victory in the opener at home, the Liberty fell short in both games on the top-seeded Shock's home court. New York rallied from a 17-point third-quarter deficit before losing 76-73 in Game 2.

New York led 41-31 with 5:34 left in the third period of this game, but couldn't finish off the defending champs. Detroit pulled to 49-43 at the end of the quarter, then scored the first six points of the fourth to tie the game.

Nolan's third jumper of the quarter put Detroit up 53-51 with 6:46 left, but the Shock were scoreless for more than three minutes before Cash's putback tied the game with 3:17 to play.

Seconds later, Nolan picked off a pass and dribbled past two New York defenders to give the Shock the lead. Smith, who had missed nine of her first 11 shots, then hit a 3-pointer to make it 60-55.

After two free throws by Kraayeveld, Ford missed a wide-open layup. Cash fouled Moore, but she could only split the free throws, making it 60-58 with 1:23 left.

Cash then turned the ball over, and Kraayeveld tied the game with 53 seconds to play.

Smith put Detroit back in front with a 15-foot jumper, but McCarville's driving layup made it 62-62 with 18 seconds to go. The Shock played for one shot, but Nolan missed a well-guarded jumper from the corner to send the game to the extra period.

The Shock missed their first six shots of overtime, including another open layup for Ford, and Kraayeveld's 3-pointer made it 69-64 with 2 minutes left.

That, though, is when Detroit's All-Stars took over.

"We have great players, and we have strong-willed players,'' Laimbeer said. "We don't blow teams out, but when we need to make big plays at the end of games, we do it. That's why we are successful.''

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