Pierson, Braxton dazzle off bench as Shock capture Game OneSep 6, 2007 - 4:28 AM AUBURN HILLS, Michigan (Ticker) -- All coach Bill Laimbeer had to do was look down his bench.
Reserves Plenette Pierson and Kara Braxton provided a major boost as the shorthanded Detroit Shock posted a 108-100 victory over the Phoenix Mercury in Game One of the best-of-five WNBA Finals on Wednesday.
Pierson had 26 points and 10 rebounds and Braxton added 19 and 12, helping Detroit inch closer to becoming the first team to win back-to-back titles since Los Angeles did so from 2001-02.
"I'm really not offensive-minded, I'd rather pass it to my teammate or do something like that," Braxton said. "Once I get rebounds and I hear my teammates, I really feed off my team. When I hear my teammates and everybody cheering for me, and congratulating me for anything little, I just feed off that and it builds and builds."
"Players who have played roles all year long stepped forward," Laimbeer said. "We all know what Plenette Pierson does all the time. Kara Braxton had a monster game, she used her size well, was very patient."
The duo picked up the slack left by All-Star Cheryl Ford, who was placed on the inactive list for this game with a left knee injury after playing in the Eastern Conference Final series with the Indiana Fever. She missed six games after hurting her knee in June and rested the final 13 games of the regular season after aggravating it one month later.
"Obviously, a good win for us a man down," Laimbeer said. "That was a magnificent contribution from our bench."
Ford's availability for Saturday's Game Two remains uncertain.
In the fourth quarter, Pierson's layup snapped a 78-78 tie and Braxton drilled a seven-footer to spark an 8-0 surge with 4:54 remaining. Pierson was named the Sixth Woman of the Year last week.
"That's why she was Sixth Woman of the Year," Taurasi said. "She played great off the bench, gave them energy and was making plays."
Cappie Pondexter scored five consecutive points as Phoenix drew within 92-88 at the 3:04 mark. But Pierson scored on a driving layup and Deanna Nolan hit two free throws for an eight-point cushion.
Katie Smith had 22 points and six rebounds and Swin Cash netted 13 for the Shock, who shot 47 percent (34-of-71) from the field and overcame 18 turnovers.
Phoenix's Penny Taylor collected an WNBA postseason-record 32 points, nine boards and seven assists. Taylor shot 11-of-19.
Pondexter scored 27 points despite a slow start and Taurasi scored 10 before fouling out for the Mercury, who shot 42 percent (35-of-83).
Detroit's size gave Phoenix trouble on the glass, leading to a 48-30 edge in rebounds.
"They are bigger than us, and that's something we'll have to focus on," Taylor said. "There aren't too many teams with that many big players and big bodies."
The Mercury held a 29-24 lead with 6:47 left in the second quarter until Taurasi put her teammates in a hole by picking up her third foul, allowing Detroit to take control.
Braxton scored eight points during a commanding 17-0 burst over a 5 1/2-minute to help the Shock create a 41-29 advantage at the 1:20 mark. Detroit led, 41-35, at the break.
"Once (Braxton) got going the momentum just kept building for her and I'm very happy for her," Laimbeer said. "But as we'll tell her, it's only one game. We want it every game. That's what we expect. And if she stays focused, she'll be OK, and that's what we're hoping for."
Taurasi and Pondexter stumbled in the opening half, combining for just six points on 3-of-19 shooting.
DETROIT 108 FINAL
Sep 5 9:59 PM
DETROIT 69 END, 3RD QTR
Sep 5 9:20 PM
DETROIT 41 HALFTIME
Sep 5 8:39 PM
DETROIT 18 END, 1ST QTR
Sep 5 8:07 PM
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