|At 6 feet 8 inches, Katie Feenstra didn't need much to keep a rebound away from Phoenix's Diana Taurasi. (ROSS D. FRANKLIN/ASSOCIATED PRESS)|
Shock close in on another WNBA crown
PHOENIX - While Katie Smith made the big shots, the Phoenix Mercury missed from just about everywhere.
As a result, the Detroit Shock are back in control of the WNBA finals.
Smith scored 22 points, 1 shy of her career playoff high, to help the defending champions beat the cold-shooting Mercury, 88-83, last night and take a 2-1 lead in the WNBA finals.
The 33-year-old Detroit forward, in her 12th pro season, made 4-of-8 3-pointers, including 3 of 4 in an 11-point third quarter.
"The defining moment of the game was her three or four shots that she made in a row there," Shock coach Bill Laimbeer said. "She knew it was her time to make those shots, and she did."
Phoenix, meanwhile, shot 35 percent, including a miserable 5 of 31 on 3-pointers in front of a loud home crowd of 12,024. "We're a shooting team," Mercury coach Paul Westhead said, "so when you're not making shots, it really gets tough on you."
The Shock, who regrouped from a 28-point home loss in Game 2 Saturday, can wrap up third WNBA title since 2003 with a victory tomorrow night in Phoenix.
Detroit took the lead for good in the game's first four minutes. Phoenix stayed close, but could never quite catch up.
Deanna Nolan, who scored 20 points, sank a crucial 3-pointer with 1:53 to go, then sealed the victory with four consecutive free throws in the final 8.3 seconds.
Diana Taurasi scored 22 points for the Mercury and teammate Tangela Smith added 17, but made only 6 of 17 shots. Penny Taylor was in foul trouble most of the night but still played 33 minutes and had 16 points and 14 rebounds.
The game came to an ugly conclusion when, according to Taurasi, Detroit's Plenette Pierson took a swing at Taylor. The two squared off and both received technicals. "It was a cheap shot at the end of the game," Taurasi said. "Whenever that happens, you can hurt somebody that way. I think the league should look at it. You get suspended for cursing, you should get suspended for slapping someone."
After the game, the hot-tempered Taurasi confronted a league official outside the news conference room and loudly let her views be known.
Taurasi was suspended for two regular-season games for her conduct toward officials in a game against Detroit June 22.
The Mercury missed their first 10 3-pointers and were 2 for 15 at the half. Still, they trailed only, 50-45, thanks to a big advantage on free throws. Phoenix was 13 for 15 from the line in the first two quarters to Detroit's 4 for 5.
But the Mercury's seasonlong free-throw accuracy deserted them down the stretch. They were 6 for 10 from the line in the final 1:05 and finished 28 for 38. Detroit was 12 for 15.
Laimbeer credited his team for not getting upset over the disparity.
"Indiana [in the conference finals], we lost our brain, we got frustrated by it, and we let it affect us," he said. "Today we kept our focus and played right through it."