AUBURN HILLS, August 26, 2007 (AP) -- The defending champion Detroit Shock survived to defend their WNBA crown for another day.
But not before being pushed to the brink of elimination in the opening round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Cheryl Ford scored 11 points, capped by a wide-open layup with 44 seconds remaining, and the Shock held off the New York Liberty 76-73 in Game 2 Sunday at The Palace to force a decisive game Tuesday.
"I told our players that at some point in this game, 'Your heart will be severely tested' - and it was,'' Shock coach Bill Laimbeer said. "We got down to a point where it was an even ballgame, last minute and our season was on the line. But we made the right plays when we had to make the right plays.''
The Shock held on for the win after watching a 17-point second-half lead evaporate during 7 minutes at the end of the fourth quarter.
New York's Shameka Christon tied the score at 71 with 2:54 remaining, connecting on a 3-pointer. After Swin Cash and Ashley Battle traded baskets, Ford put the Shock ahead for good, scoring in the post to give the Shock a 2-point lead with 44 seconds remaining.
Trailing 73-71, New York failed to score on its ensuing possession when Janel McCarville missed a short jump shot. New York got a final chance when the Shock turned the ball over with 14.7 seconds remaining, but Cathrine Kraayeveld missed a driving attempt.
Deanna Nolan split a pair of free throws with 2.3 seconds remaining to close out Detroit's victory. She led the Shock with 16 points.
"We made a couple of mistakes down the stretch,'' Liberty coach Pat Coyle said. "All (the Shock) did tonight is do what you're supposed to do - win on your own floor. We did what we've been doing all year - we fight back, we fight back and we give ourselves a chance.''
Ford made her first start Sunday after playing sparingly in a 73-51 Game 1 loss, still hampered by a knee injury she suffered July 20 against Indiana. On Sunday, Ford finished as one of five Shock players in double figures, led by Nolan, who scored 14 points in the second half. Swin Cash added 14 and Katie Smith had 12.
Shameka Christon and McCarville scored 19 points apiece for the Liberty.
Ford played 26 minutes, grabbing 10 rebounds to go with 10 points as Detroit outscored New York 44-10 in the paint. How much Ford plays in Tuesday's decisive Game 3 will be determined after Ford practices Monday.
"The doctors said my knee would let me know when I need to sit down so I was just going to go out and play hard and see what happens,'' Ford said. "We had our backs against the wall, but we came out with the 'W' and that's all that matters.''
The Liberty used an 11-4 fourth-quarter run to play their way back into the game. Loree Moore's 3 brought the Liberty to within 60-56. But back-to-back baskets by Nolan and Plenette Pierson extended Detroit's lead back to eight with 6:54 remaining.
New York again drew to within four when McCarville scored with 6:13 left, but Nolan converted a 3-point play and Cash scored on a driving layup and Detroit maintained its lead.
Detroit, which led 42-31 at halftime after outscoring New York 15-4 to end the second quarter, built a 15-point lead 2:30 into the second half.
Nolan sparked the early third-quarter surge, scoring six straight points to begin the third quarter. The Liberty trimmed the lead to seven on Kraayeveld's jump shot with 33.8 seconds remaining in the quarter before the Liberty eventually closed the gap in the final quarter.
"(The Liberty) had their chance to win the series - we could not win the series today,'' Laimbeer said. "We had to stave off elimination to get that chance to win the series. Now, it's our turn to win the series.''