McKeesport’s Cash leads Shock into WNBA finals
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — Swin Cash scored 20 points and Deanna Nolan added 17 before leaving with a back injury, as the Detroit Shock earned a berth in the WNBA finals with a 79-73 win Sunday night over the Connecticut Sun.
Detroit, which swept Connecticut in the best-of-three series and 6-0 for the year, will play the winner of tonight’s decisive Game 3 in the Sacramento-Los Angeles series. The finals begin Friday.
Nolan was taken off the court on a stretcher after she fell violently on her back with Detroit ahead 65-64 with 5:28 to play. The shooting guard went up high in an attempt to block a layup attempt by Nykesha Sales and fell hard on her back.
Connecticut led 69-65 with four minutes to play, but the rest of the game was all Detroit.
Elaine Powell put the Shock ahead 70-69 with a runner off the glass with two minutes left.
Then, Cash showed why she is one of the league’s most exciting players.
The forward sprinted for a loose ball near the Shock bench, grabbed it and threw it blindly over her head to Kedra Holland-Corn. Cash then sprinted for the basket, accepted a feed from Holland-Corn, put it in and was fouled by Rebecca Lobo.
She converted the free throw for a 73-69 lead with 52 seconds to play.
Cheryl Ford made two free throws with 39 seconds left to make it 75-69 and cap a 10-0 Shock run.
The teams traded free throws the rest of the way.
The Shock are a season removed from a league-worst 9-23 record. They entered former Piston great Bill Laimbeer’s first full season as coach with one of the WNBA’s youngest rosters.
But the former Bad Boy not only has the Shock in the playoffs for the first time since 1999, but they earned home court advantage throughout, thanks to a league-leading 25-9 regular-season record.
The Shock, which used a dominating inside game in a 73-63 series-opening win Friday night, used more of a balanced attack.
Nolan was able to score from the outside while Ford, the league’s Rookie of the Year, provided a strong inside presence, scoring a career playoff-high 17 points. The daughter of NBA star Karl Malone also pulled down 14 rebounds.
The Shock, who were 20-2 during the regular season when they scored at least 70 points, improved to 4-0 during the playoffs when reaching that plateau.
Each time the Sun made a run in the first half, the Shock answered with a run of their own.
The Sun scored five straight to pull to within 44-37 on a 3-pointer by Shannon Johnson, but Detroit responded with an offensive rebound and put-back by Ford and a fast break runner by Nolan for a 48-37 advantage with a minute to go.
Neither team scored in the final 60 seconds of the half.
Taj McWilliams-Franklin led the Sun with 17 points and 13 rebounds. Johnson added 16 points.