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Shock seeking to avoid elimination by Sparks

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Detroit Shock teammates Swin Cash, left, and Elaine Powell joke around during WNBA Finals practice.

Detroit Shock teammates Swin Cash, left, and Elaine Powell joke around during WNBA Finals practice.

Mark J. Terrill, Associated Press

DETROIT — The Detroit Shock need another remarkable turnaround.

The Shock saved their franchise with an incredible reversal this season, finishing with a league-best record after just nine wins a year ago.

Detroit needs a victory in Game 2 of the WNBA Finals on Sunday to extend the two-time defending champion Los Angeles Sparks to a decisive third game.

The Sparks built a 21-point first-half lead on their way to a 75-63 victory and a 1-0 lead Friday night. The second game of the best-of-three final is at The Palace of Auburn Hills.

The Shock will host Game 3 on Tuesday, if necessary

Detroit coach Bill Laimbeer is still cocky and confident about his team's chances.

"We're just as good as them," he said. "We have big players, we have strong players. We can crash the boards, we can shoot."

The Shock didn't shoot well Friday, however.

Detroit made just 28 percent of its shots, the lowest in the history of the finals, and struggled with turnovers. The Sparks scored 20 points off Detroit's 12 first-half turnovers.

Lisa Leslie led the Sparks with 23 points, and Nikki Teasley matched her own finals record with 11 assists.

Detroit's Swin Cash scored 16 points, and Deanna Nolan had 15 despite a back bruise. Cheryl Ford, the WNBA's rookie of the year, had 11 points and 12 rebounds.

Los Angeles coach Michael Cooper, who played against Laimbeer and the Pistons as a member of the Lakers, said his team must improve its play to win the series.

"We're going to have to play better when we go back there," said Cooper, whose Sparks are winless on the road in the playoffs this year.

Laimbeer is counting on fan support to give Detroit an edge.

"We know we're going home to a tremendous crowd, our biggest crowd we've had in a long time," he said. "They've been very supportive of us all year long, and it's going to be fun. It's going to be an atmosphere that only a few of them have experienced in their life."

Shock president Tom Wilson credits Laimbeer's presence with saving the franchise.

Detroit was a league-worst 9-23 in 2002, a record that, coupled with lackluster attendance, led to speculation the team would move or fold.

With Laimbeer's leadership, and a revamped lineup, the Shock had the WNBA's best record (25-9) in the regular season and made the playoffs for first time since 1999.

But Cash is not satisfied.

"This series is far from over," she said. "We feel good with our chances of going back home and getting two."