Pierson Lifts Shock to Win Over Sparks

Detroit 75, Los Angeles 73

AUBURN HILLS, Mich., July 29 (AP) -- Plenette Pierson doesn't start for the Detroit Shock because coach Bill Laimbeer wants her on the court at the end of the game.

Pierson scored 21 points, including a three-point play with 26.3 seconds left that gave Detroit its first lead of the game, and the Shock held off the Los Angeles Sparks 75-73 Sunday night.

"Our best lineup is when she's on the floor, but I can't risk getting her in foul trouble at the start of games,'' Laimbeer said. "She'll be there at the end.''

After a ball fake gave her an open lane to the basket, Pierson drove and laid the ball in while slamming into Jessica Moore - who was called for a foul as the shot dropped. Pierson then sank the free throw.

"Bill called my number, and they bit on the handoff to (Deanna Nolan),'' she said. "That's my play - it has been all year. I was going strong to the hole, and I knew they couldn't call a charge. (Moore) was too far under the basket.''

Sidney Spencer and Taj McWilliams-Franklin both missed on the ensuing possession, and McWilliams-Franklin and Kara Braxton tied up the rebound with 9.9 seconds left.

"I missed a layup,'' McWilliams-Franklin said. "When you get good looks, you have to knock them down.''

Braxton won the jump ball, but Nolan lost the ball out of bounds with 7.4 seconds left.

Temeka Johnson threw away the inbounds pass, but Shannon Johnson kept Los Angeles (8-16) alive when she missed a pair of free throws.

However, Temeka Johnson appeared to lose track of the clock, and didn't get a shot off before the buzzer, but her teammates weren't blaming her for the loss.

"That doesn't matter,'' McWilliams-Franklin said. "We played well enough to win, but we didn't finish. We let it go.''

Swin Cash, who played a key role in Detroit's fourth-quarter comeback, finished with 16 points and 10 rebounds, while Katie Smith added 14 for the Shock (20-6).

McWilliams-Franklin led the Sparks with 16 points and 11 rebounds while Moore scored 12.

The defending WNBA champions got off to their customary slow start, falling behind 19-9 in the first 7 minutes, but rallied to 39-34 at the half.

"This is our sixth game in 10 nights, and it really caught up with us,'' Laimbeer said. "We gutted it out, though. That was a great win.''

Los Angeles still appeared to have the game under control when they led 68-60 with 6 minutes left, but Cash hit a pair of free throws, then put back an offensive rebound to make it 68-65.

Smith and Moore traded free throws, and Cash was fouled after pulling down another offensive rebound.

She hit both free throws, giving her seven points in less than 3 minutes and cutting the Los Angeles lead to 69-68 with 2:55 to go.

"I knew we were in the penalty, so I wanted to be aggressive and get the ball to the basket,'' Cash said. "They'd either have to foul me, let me score, or give me an open pass to one of our shooters.''

The Sparks led 73-72 when McWilliams-Franklin missed inside with 42 seconds left. Braxton pulled down the rebound, setting up Pierson's winning play.

"Plenette's an All-Star in this league,'' Los Angeles coach Michael Cooper said. "It's a shame that she has to come off the bench, but that's her role.''

With the league's top rebounder, Cheryl Ford, out for the rest of the season with a knee injury, Laimbeer took heart in Braxton's last-minute rebounds.

"She had a good game last night, and she grabbed a couple huge rebounds tonight,'' he said of Braxton, who has gone from the All-Star game to the bench in the last month. "It's a start.''