for this game

Braxton, Zellous help Shock toward playoffs

Sep 7, 2009 - 5:01 AM AUBURN HILLS, Mich.(AP) -- With the Detroit Shock are down to nine players as they try to make the playoffs, Deanna Nolan has decided she isn't coming off the floor.

Nolan has played every second of Detroit's last two games, including Sunday's crucial 84-75 victory over the Chicago Sky. She had 19 points and eight rebounds as the Shock (16-15) moved above .500 for the first time this season.

"This just feels normal to me," Nolan said. "I'm going to do whatever it takes to help us win games."

The Shock lost key reserve Plenette Pierson to a season-ending shoulder injury in the first half of their first game, and have now played four straight without Katie Smith, who is sidelined with a back injury. In the games Smith has missed, Nolan has averaged 39.8 minutes.

"That is just what she does," Shock coach Rick Mahorn said. "She can play 40 minutes at that level, and not even look like she's broken a sweat."

Detroit started the season 2-7, losing coach/GM Bill Laimbeer in the process, and were still only 9-14 after a home loss to Seattle on Aug. 18. Just when it looked like they were out of contention for the playoffs, much less their fourth straight Eastern Conference title, they have won seven of eight and are now 1 1/2 games ahead of Chicago, Washington and Connecticut for the third playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

"We knew we could do this, because we were beating ourselves every night in the first half of the season," Nolan said. "There were maybe four games where we thought the other team had beaten us instead of us doing it to ourselves."

Kara Braxton scored 17 points and fellow reserve Shavonte Zellous added 16.

"We need to get Smith back, but these young ladies have stepped up and given us a chance to rest her," said Mahorn, who said that Smith's status is day-to-day.

Shyra Ely and Candice Dupree finished with 18 each for Chicago, which fell to 15-17.

"Their offense didn't kill us, it was us killing us," Chicago coach Steven Key said. "We were fouling and doing stupid things. We didn't take care of the ball, and you can't beat that team if you don't play better than we did."

The Shock led 38-36 at the half, but Chicago went ahead late in the third, and took a 58-57 advantage into the fourth before Detroit pulled away.

"They got 47 points off our turnovers and second-chance points - that's something we have to fix," Dupree said. "We've got to be aggressive and we've got to pick it up on defense."

Chicago's Sylvia Fowles played for the second time after missing five games with an ankle injury, but scored only two points in 18 minutes and was obviously limping while moving up and down the court.

"You have to give her a lot of credit," Mahorn said. "She's clearly hurting, but she knows her team is in a dogfight and she is going to do anything she can to help."