AUBURN HILLS, Mich.(AP) The Atlanta Dream had a chance to win their first playoff game and put the defending WNBA champions on the ropes.
They didn't take it.
Deanna Nolan scored 25 points and Kara Braxton added 16 as the Detroit Shock rallied for a 94-89 victory over the Dream in the opener of their Eastern Conference first-round series.
"This is very frustrating, because we know we missed a great opportunity to win on their home floor,'' said Iziane Castro-Marques, who led Atlanta with 25 points. "Now we've got to go back to Atlanta and win two games.''
The Shock trailed by 13 points midway through the third quarter, but dominated the final 15 minutes to take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three series.
"This is a testament to our team - we weren't going to give up,'' said Rick Mahorn, who replaced Bill Laimbeer as coach early in the season.
Detroit played with only nine players. Plenette Pierson (shoulder) has been out since the first game of the season, and Katie Smith (back) hasn't played since Aug. 27.
"We're not 100 percent - we don't have Plenette, we don't have Katie, I'm not 100 percent, others aren't - but this is the playoffs,'' Alexis Hornbuckle said. "We can't lose this game and say that we've got two games left. You've got to win every time you have a chance.''
The Shock also benefitted from a strange coaching decision by Atlanta's Marynell Meadors in the final minutes.
Detroit led 90-89 with 16.1 seconds left and fouled Deanna Nolan. Nolan, who had been fouled hard by Sancho Lyttle a minute earlier, had to leave the game with what Mahorn described as "lightheadedness''. Mahorn said he expected Nolan to be OK for Friday's game.
Her absence, though, meant that Meadors could choose who would shoot the free throws. She could have selected Olayinka Sanni, a career 67 percent free-throw shooter who hadn't played in the game, or Braxton, who has hit 66 percent in her career.
Instead, Meadors chose Crystal Kelly, a career 85-percent shooter who has finished in the top 20 in free-throw shooting in both of her WNBA seasons.
Kelly made both shots, moving Detroit's lead back to three.
"I guess since she made the shots, you can say I made a mistake,'' Meadors said. "We thought she would be cold, since she hadn't played since the first half. If she misses the shots, I would have looked pretty good.''
Mahorn didn't expect Atlanta to select Kelly, but certainly didn't mind.
"I don't know how that happened - maybe they had a misprint somewhere,'' Mahorn said, trying to hide a smile. "We certainly didn't mind.''
Castro-Marques missed a tying 3-pointer and Nikki Teasley sealed the win from the line.
Shavonte Zellous scored eight points as Detroit put together a 17-0 run to finish the third and take a 65-61 lead. The lead grew to 10 with 4 minutes left in the fourth.
Erika DeSouza's three-point play pulled Atlanta to 89-85 with 1:40 left, and after a Detroit miss, McCoughtry's running hook made it a two-point game.
Nolan split a pair of free throws after the hard foul by Lyttle, but Cheryl Ford committed two fouls in a five-second span. Atlanta made two of four free throws to narrow the gap to 90-89, but that was when Meadors decided to bring Kelly into the game.
"Do I have to comment on that?'' Hornbuckle said. "We were surprised and we were happy, and let's leave it at that.''
The Dream led 30-16 after the first quarter, and 45-36 at the half, controlling the game until Detroit's big third-quarter run.
"In the first half, we were defending, rebounding and running,'' Meadors said. "In the second half, we didn't do those things.''