Shock Hold Off Mercury in Pivotal Game 3
By BOB BAUM, AP Sports Writer

Detroit 88, Phoenix 83

PHOENIX, Sept. 11 (AP) -- Katie Smith made the big shots. The Phoenix Mercury missed from just about everywhere.

As a result, the Detroit Shock are back in control of the WNBA finals.

Smith scored 22 points, one shy of her career playoff high, to help the defending champions beat the cold-shooting 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.

"The defining moment of the game was her three or four shots that she made in a row there,'' Shock coach Bill Laimbeer said. "She knew it was her time to make those shots, and she did.''

Phoenix, meanwhile, shot 35 percent, including a miserable 5-for-31 on 3s, in front of a loud home crowd of 12,024.

"We're a shooting team,'' Mercury coach Paul Westhead said, "so when you're not making shots, it really gets tough on you.''

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 quite catch up.

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.

The game came to an ugly conclusion when, according to Taurasi, Detroit's Plenette Pierson took a swing at Taylor. The two squared off and both received technicals.

"It was a cheap shot at the end of the game,'' Taurasi said. "Whenever that happens, you can hurt somebody that way. I think the league should look at it. You get suspended for cursing, you should get suspended for slapping someone.''

After the game, the hot-tempered Taurasi confronted a league official outside the news conference room and loudly let her views be known.

Taurasi was suspended for two regular-season games for her conduct toward officials in a game against Detroit on June 22.

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.

"In the last minute, man, we gave them every opportunity to get back in this game,'' Laimbeer said. "All the second shots that we didn't put a body on anybody.''

Detroit's patience on offense kept the Mercury out of high gear much of the night.

"There are a lot of things we can clean up,'' Katie Smith said, "but I think our offense really helped us with our defense.''

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.

Laimbeer credited his team for not getting upset over the disparity.

"Indiana (in the conference finals), we lost our brain, we got frustrated by it, and we let it affect us,'' he said. "Today we kept our focus and played right through it.''

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