ATLANTA — Cheryl Ford knew the Detroit Shock would improve their intensity on defense in the second half.
“I just think we all know we didn’t come out to play as hard as we could,” Ford said.
“We had too many turnovers that they got, so we got together at halftime and discussed being focused.”
Deanna Nolan had 33 points and eight assists before leaving the court with her left arm in a sling, and the Detroit Shock beat the expansion Atlanta Dream 88-76 on Friday night.
Nolan, a starting guard for Detroit’s 2003 and ‘06 WNBA championship teams, was 13-for-23 from the field. A collision late in the fourth quarter sent the former Georgia standout to the bench holding her arm.
Nolan stayed in the training room after the game and boarded the team bus without speaking to reporters. Detroit coach Bill Laimbeer didn’t sound as if her injury was a major concern.
“In the second half, we played defense, got the offensive rebounds, and that was the difference in the game,” Laimbeer said. “I basically told them (at halftime) that it was a national television game and that the only way for us to get back in the game was to play defense and get rebounds.”
Ford had 13 rebounds for the Shock, who have won three of four to start the season.
Betty Lennox scored 21 points to lead Atlanta, which dropped to 0-2 after losing its first game at Philips Arena.
“We are making progress as a team,” Dream coach Marynell Meadors said.
“We were aggressive and defensive tonight. On offense, we just didn’t hit some shots we should make. We will get better.”
The Dream went 0-for-14 beyond the 3-point arc before hitting two late in the fourth quarter. They shot just 20.9 percent from the field in the second half.
Atlanta had a pair of 18-point leads in the second quarter, the last coming when Ericka DeSouza’s layup made it 43-25.
Ford, a strong frontline presence for Detroit since 2003, was disappointed with the Shock’s first-half effort.
Nolan opened the fourth quarter with a short jumper that made it 65-63, giving the Shock their first lead since the opening period.
Detroit rookie guard Alexis Hornbuckle, the No. 4 overall draft pick, had 12 points and three steals as a reserve. She credited the Shock’s defense with challenging Atlanta’s pull-up jumpers in the lane.
Nolan’s shooting touch helped, too.
“We turned it around and we were getting stops that we needed,” Hornbuckle said. “Deanna had a great game, knocking down big shots.”
Dream guard Ivory Latta, an expansion pick who spent last season with Detroit, went 1-for-11 from the field.
Nolan finished three points shy of her career high, set last July 24 at Connecticut.