By Andrew Pearson

SACRAMENTO, Sept. 6, 2006 -- On Tuesday before Game 4, Detroit Shock coach Bill Laimbeer uttered a statement that he has repeated many times before.

"When we get determined, we play very well," said Laimbeer.

Well, following Detroit's 72-52 win, the Shock once again made their coach look prophetic, playing both determined and very well. It only took for their season to be at stake before they produced such a performance. Regardless, the Shock now have a new life in this series, heading back to Detroit for the deciding Game 5 on Saturday at Joe Louis Arena.


Cash and the Shock forced a decisive Game 5.
Noah Graham/NBAE/Getty Images
"The Finals are about a test of wills and who wants it more and the players have to come and play," said Laimbeer. "Today we did. No question today we came in with a chip on our shoulder to prove who we are. We want very badly to go back to Detroit and play in downtown Detroit. Joe Louis. We're gonna pack that place."

Their win should come as no surprise considering Detroit lost back-to-back games only once this season. Likewise in their last championship season in 2003, Detroit lost back-to-back games only twice in finishing 25-9. This season the Shock not only have bounced back from defeat well, but they usually have done it convincingly, with their average margin of victory after a loss being 17.7 points. Most impressively, they rebounded from a 77-68 loss to Connecticut in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals to close out the series with a 24-point blowout, 79-55.

That same resilience was on display early and often in Game 4. Detroit opened the game with two quick hits by Deanna Nolan, but was met by a mini-Sacramento run capped by a Nicole Powell three that sent the crowd into a frenzy and put the Shock down 20-14. However, behind the play of Katie Smith (17 first-half points) and a willingness to get physical around the basket - especially from Swin Cash and Ruth Riley - Detroit was able to stem the Sacramento momentum and reached the halftime break with a 43-38 lead.

"That's how we like to play basketball, is be physical down there in the paint," said Laimbeer. Detroit exhibited that same inner toughness late in the fourth quarter as well. Again the main culprit was Smith, who drilled two daggers in a row, one a three from the top of the key and the other a driving, pull-up jumper along the right baseline to push the lead to 68-52 with just under four minutes remaining.

"I got a good look, I was a little tired, but I was able to knock it down, and obviously the next bucket most likely put it out of reach," said Smith.

Detroit has been given new life. The question now is how will the Shock deal with it?