INDIANAPOLIS, August 31, 2007 (AP) -- The Indiana Fever are one win away from their first trip to the WNBA Finals.
Tamika Catchings had 22 points and 11 rebounds to help the Fever beat the Detroit Shock 75-65 on Friday night in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals.
The Shock beat the Fever 2-0 in the first round of last year's playoffs on the way to their second championship in four years. Now, Detroit must win at home on Sunday to have a chance to repeat.
Catchings said the pressure is on the Fever, not the Shock.
"We need to make sure we take care of business,'' she said. "To an extent, I feel like we need to play with our backs against the wall or have that mentality. Detroit has been in this situation before, and they know how to win.''
Catchings set a franchise record with her fourth consecutive double-double. She shot just 5-for-15 from the field, but went 10-for-13 from the free-throw line. She is averaging 20.3 points and 14.3 rebounds in the playoffs.
Indiana outscored Detroit 18-5 from the free-throw line in the second half and had much of the Shock's lineup in foul trouble late in the game. That was a change from the first quarter, when the Fever failed to take advantage of being in the bonus.
"In the first half, it seemed like we were kind of slow bringing the ball up, but we talked at halftime about attacking the basket,'' Catchings said. "For us, it was just a matter of coming out and attacking them.''
The difference in free throws had Detroit coach Bill Laimbeer upset after the game.
"I prefer you don't ask me about the officiating,'' he said. "The league has threatened me with a suspension should I say anything. So I would prefer not to, and I prefer that you don't ask any of my players either.''
Tamika Whitmore scored 18 points for the Fever and Tammy Sutton-Brown, the All-Star center who nearly disappeared in the first round of the playoffs, added 11 points, eight rebounds and six blocks for Indiana.
"She was a presence in there,'' Indiana coach Brian Winters said. "Anytime we get play like that from Tammy Sutton-Brown, that's just a bonus from our team.''
The Fever got into the bonus with more than six minutes left in the fourth quarter on a shot by Anna DeForge. She completed the three-point play to give Indiana a 64-57 lead.
Detroit cut the lead to 66-63 on a basket by Pierson before Whitmore went to work again.
First, she scored after a spin to the baseline to make it 68-63. Then, Pierson blocked Whitmore's mid-range jumper, but the ball bounced right back to her, and she drained the shot to make the lead 70-63 with 1:41 to go.
Detroit's bench was called for a technical foul, and Catchings made the free throw to make it a 71-63 game. Tully Bevilaqua followed that with a 3-pointer with 1:02 left.
Indiana shut down Detroit guards combination of Deanna Nolan and Katie Smith. Nolan scored 13 points, but shot 6-for 18 from the field, though she had six assists. Smith shot 2-for-8 from the field and finished with seven points.
Detroit continued to struggle on offense. The Shock shot 38 percent in the first round, the lowest of the eight playoff teams, then shot 40 percent against Indiana in Game 1.
The game was sloppy in the first half. At one point, Ford, sitting on the bench, said, "We're playing terrible and we're only down four.''
Indiana shot 20 percent in the first quarter, but still led 15-13 after 10 minutes.
The Fever led 33-31 at halftime. Whitmore shot 5-for-8 from the field in the first half, but her teammates shot 5-for-30.
"We're going to go back with a chip on our shoulder because this was a frustrating experience for us here,'' Laimbeer said.
Catchings knows what's coming.
"I know they're going to be ready,'' she said. "They're going to come Sunday and probably play lights out. That's an expectation we need to have.''