for this game

Ford, Nolan lead Shock over Mercury

Sep 2, 2009 - 2:36 AM AUBURN HILLS, Mich.(AP) -- Cheryl Ford has had a tough season, though she knew she had a chance to make something happen Tuesday night.

Ford and the Detroit Shock were playing the run-and-gun Phoenix Mercury, a team ill-suited to stop her post game.

"Yeah, my eyes light up when we play them," Ford said after finishing with 22 points and 11 rebounds in Detroit's 101-99 victory. "I know they don't have a big inside presence."

Ford has spent the last two seasons battling serious injuries to both knees, and said the Phoenix game was one of the few times she has felt healthy.

"I didn't have any pain at all tonight," she said. "This is the best I've been all year."

The Shock (14-15), who are part of a five-way race for the final three playoff spots in the Eastern Conference, also got 21 points from Deanna Nolan and 12 from rookie Shavonte Zellous. Detroit was missing Katie Smith (back) for the second straight game.

"That is a tough team to play, you've got to sacrifice your body to keep up with them," Zellous said. "I'm really tired, but this is a big win for us."

The Mercury came into the game as one of the league's best teams at avoiding turnovers, but Detroit forced 19 while committing only 10.

"That's huge, because that's 19 shots that Phoenix doesn't get to take," Detroit coach Rick Mahorn said. "We knew we could get shots against them, but that is a very high-powered offense they've got."

Phoenix (20-10) got 25 points from Cappie Pondexter and 20 from Diana Taurasi, who missed a potential winning 3-pointer as time expired.

"They played well and we just didn't get that last shot in," Phoenix coach Corey Gaines said. "We tried to push the pace and wear them down, but they hit some big shots and we didn't."

The Mercury's loss, combined with Seattle's win in New York, cut Phoenix's margin to one game over the Storm for the Western Conference's top seed.

"Getting momentum for the playoffs is vital - not because of our record, but just to be a better team," Pondexter said. "The team that has that momentum is probably going to be the team that takes it all."

The Shock led by as many as 14 points in the second quarter, but Phoenix rallied to pull within 42-39 at the half.

The Mercury went ahead early in the third, and took a 73-70 lead into the fourth quarter on Pondexter's 16-foot jumper as time expired.

The teams traded the advantage down the stretch, but Nolan's 3-pointer gave Detroit a 96-92 lead with 1:45 left. After Taurasi missed a 3, Taj McWilliams found a cutting Alexis Hornbuckle for a wide-open layup and a six-point lead.

Phoenix got within two, but Ford's layup made it 100-96, and Penny Taylor missed a 3-pointer. Ford could have clinched the game from the line, but missed both shots.

Taurasi hit three free throws to make it a one-point game with 10 seconds left, and Hornbuckle split a pair to give Phoenix a chance to tie or win.

Taurasi, though, missed a 3-pointer over McWilliams as the clock wound down.

"Our turnovers didn't allow us to capitalize on the offensive end, and that let them capitalize on the defensive end," Pondexter said. "We just have to do a better job of taking care of the ball."

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