Shock Beat Mercury in Record-Setting Game 1
By MIKE HOUSEHOLDER, Associated Press Writer

Detroit 108, Phoenix 100

AUBURN HILLS, Mich., Sept. 5 (AP) -- No Cheryl Ford, no problem.

The Detroit Shock shook off the absence of their interior star and held off the run-and-gun Phoenix Mercury in a wild 108-100 victory in Game 1 of the WNBA finals on Wednesday night.

The defending champs struggled to get back to the finals, squeaking past New York and Indiana in the East and figured to have trouble with Phoenix, which hadn't lost in the playoffs.

And without Ford, the All-Star game Most Valuable Player and the heart of the team, what chance did they have?

A pretty good one as it turns out.

Plenette Pierson and Kara Braxton roared off the bench, combining for 45 points and 22 rebounds and provided the kind of intimidating inside play for which Ford is known.

Detroit outrebounded Phoenix 48-30 and scored often on putbacks and other high-percentage shots. The Shock's bench outscored Phoenix's 50-12.

"Obviously, a good win for us a man down. That was a magnificent contribution from our bench,'' said Detroit coach Bill Laimbeer, who found out Wednesday morning that Ford wouldn't be able to go.

He said he hopes to have Ford available for Game 2.

"Right now, we're hoping she'll play Saturday, but we won't know until the morning of the game at the earliest,'' he said.

Four other players scored in double figures for the Shock, whose point total was the highest in finals history. It also was the highest-scoring game ever in the finals.

Penny Taylor scored 32 points and Cappie Pondexter had 27 to lead the Mercury, who struggled when All-Star Diana Taurasi missed significant stretches of the game with foul trouble.

Taurasi, who averaged 20 points in the Mercury's first four playoff games and 25 during the regular season, was held scoreless in the first half. She scored a quick nine points in the third before being whistled for a loose ball foul with 5:37 to go in the quarter. The contact on Detroit's Katie Smith resulted in Taurasi's fifth foul and she sat on the bench for the remainder of the quarter.

Taurasi fouled out with two minutes remaining in the game. She finished with 10 points in 22 minutes.

"It was what we expected,'' Taylor said. "We got out to run, and they got inside a lot. They are bigger than us, and that's something we'll have to focus on. There aren't too many teams with that many big players and big bodies.''

Pierson, who won the WNBA's Sixth Woman of the Year award, played the first three seasons of her career in Phoenix. She finished with 26 points and 10 rebounds, and Braxton added 19 points and 12 rebounds. Smith had 22 points, six rebounds and four assists for Detroit, which led at the ends of the second and third quarters and made its free throws in the fourth to seal the win.

"That's why she was sixth man of the year,'' Taurasi said of Pierson. "She played great off the bench, gave them energy and was making plays.''

The teams finished the game on less-than-friendly terms.

Deanna Nolan and Pondexter exchanged angry words and Nolan gave Pondexter a one-armed shove before they were separated. Shock guard Elaine Powell also had to be restrained.

Pondexter wasn't interested in discussing the incident after the game.

"It's over with. It's done, so no need to talk about it,'' she said.

Detroit led 41-35 at the half, after a 17-6 run over the final seven minutes that featured six points by Braxton and four by Swin Cash.

A fast-break layup by Kelly Miller with three minutes remaining in the first quarter gave Phoenix its largest lead of the game at 21-10. The Shock scored the next eight points and trailed 21-18 at the end of the first quarter.