Nolan moves Shock into playoff picture

AUBURN HEIGHTS, Mich.(AP) For much of the season, the Detroit Shock looked like they wouldn't make the playoffs, much less a fourth straight trip to the WNBA finals.

After their best stretch of the season, they don't think anything is out of the question.

Deanna Nolan scored 29 points and the Shock beat the Atlanta Dream 87-83 on Thursday night for their fourth straight win, and possession of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Detroit (13-14) leads Chicago and Washington by a half game.

"We've got our mojo back,'' Nolan said. "It's great to have gotten to fourth, and we're still in reach of second and third.''

Atlanta coach Marynell Meadors, though, thought the Shock took advantage of some poor officiating to lose for the first time in four meetings with the Shock this season.

"They came out like the bunch of bullies that they are and pushed us around, and no calls were made,'' Meadors said. "That's what they had to do to win the game. I think we're a better team than they are.''

Detroit was only called for four fouls in the final quarter.

"You don't want me to say what changed in the fourth,'' Meadors said.

Cheryl Ford, still playing with a bulky knee brace after last year's torn ACL, had 12 rebounds against one of the best rebounding teams in the league.

"She can't do everything physical that she could do before the injury, but she still gives us so many things,'' said Detroit coach Rick Mahorn. "Her hustle hasn't changed, her attitude hasn't changed and her desire hasn't changed.''

Rookie Shavonte Zellous, playing against college rival Angel McCoughtry, had 12 points off the bench for Detroit.

"It was Big East night tonight - we went against each other for four years when she was at Louisville and I was at Pitt,'' Zellous said. "We're friends, but tonight, we needed this win.''

The game was tied in the final minute, but baskets by Nolan and Zellous gave the Shock an 83-79 lead with 28 seconds left. Sancho Lyttle scored for the Dream, but Nolan clinched the game from the free-throw line, giving her 17 second-half points.

"Nolan took over the game in the fourth - that's something she's always capable of doing,'' Mahorn said. "It's fun to watch when she gets going.''

Atlanta (15-13) played without Chamique Holdsclaw (knee) for the third straight game, but got double-doubles from Lyttle and Erika DeSouza. Lyttle had 14 points and 12 rebounds, while DeSouza had 16 points and 13 rebounds.

Iziane Castro Marques led the Dream with 19 points, and McCoughtry had 16.

"We gave up a lot of offensive boards and had a lot of turnovers,'' Marques said. "We could have had the win if not for those two things. Every time we got a turnover, they came out and scored on us.''

The Shock appeared to be in control midway through the second quarter, leading by as many as 12, before Atlanta finished the half with a 21-3 run. DeSouza had 12 points in the half.

The Dream took a double-digit advantage of their own early in the third, but Detroit was within 66-64 at quarter's end. The Shock scored the first six points of the fourth, but couldn't finish the Dream until the final minute.

"Give the credit to my assistant coach - Earl Cureton got up and gave a speech at halftime that inspired the team,'' Mahorn said. "They get tired of hearing my voice, but he they listened to him. He told them that they've given themselves an opportunity to get back in the playoff race and that they didn't want to blow it now.''

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