Shock Headed to Finals With Win Over Fever

Detroit 81, Indiana 65

AUBURN HILLS, Sept. 3 (AP) -- The Indiana Fever had two chances in 29 hours to advance to their first WNBA finals.

Deanna Nolan wouldn't let it happen.

A day after scoring 15 points in the second quarter of Detroit's victory in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals, Nolan had a franchise playoff-record 30 points as the Shock advanced to the championship round with a 81-65 victory in Game 3 Monday.

The Fever led by as many as 13 points in the first quarter, but Nolan scored 20 points in a 14-minute span to pull Detroit back into the game.

"I wanted to see the flow of the game, and then I knew I needed to make something happen,'' said Nolan, who was 7-for-9 on 3-pointers. "I was a little surprised that my 3-pointers kept falling - I'm not usually that good a 3-point shooter.''

Nolan's 54 points in two days helped the defending champs improve to 7-0 when facing elimination in the past two seasons. The Shock will face Phoenix starting Wednesday, going for their third title in five years.

"That was a spectacular individual effort by Deanna,'' Detroit coach Bill Laimbeer said. "There were times that I wasn't sure if we had enough players who were going to compete hard enough to win this game, but she carried us until the rest of the team got going.''

Detroit is 4-0 at home in this year's playoffs and 0-2 on the road.

"We've done what we are supposed to do - win our home games,'' Laimbeer said. "We played all season to make sure we have home-court advantage, and if we win all our home games, we'll be the WNBA champions again.

"It would be nice to win one road game, though.''

Indiana lost both the lead and All-Star forward Tamika Catchings in the second quarter. Catchings, who missed the final 13 regular-season games with a left-foot injury, strained her right Achilles' tendon in the last minute of the first half and did not return.

"She's got a pretty significant injury,'' Fever coach Brian Winters said. "We've played without Catch before, but it is hard to lose your best player and someone of that stature and talent.''

Catchings left the arena immediately after the game to fly back to Indiana for an examination and did not speak to the media.

"You hate to see anyone get hurt, especially a player like that, and it looked like she hurt herself pretty badly,'' Laimbeer said. "But that's what happens in this game - that's why you have a bench and that's why you need more great players.''

Cheryl Ford, playing her third game in four days on a bad knee, had 15 rebounds in just 18 minutes.

"I thought Cheryl was done in the first quarter - she came out with the two fouls and she was in so much pain that we thought she was finished,'' Laimbeer said. "But she told us she could go back in, and she was a rebounding machine.''

Tammy Sutton-Brown (17) and Tully Bevilaqua (14) were the only Fever players to reach double figures. Tamika Whitmore, who had a league-record 41 points against Detroit in a first-round game last year, finished with nine on 3-for-10 shooting.

"This is tough,'' Indiana's Sheri Sam said. "We had a goal of making the finals, and we just fell short. It's hard to put this into words.''

The Shock, known for their slow starts, trailed 16-3 just 4 minutes into the game with Ford on the bench in foul trouble, but Nolan's surge helped the Shock tie the score at 28.

"Deanna Nolan is just a special player,'' Winters said. "We tried a lot of things to stop, and none of them worked. She was just too much for us.''

Plenette Pierson's jumper then gave the Shock their first lead, drawing a standing ovation from the previously silent crowd.

Detroit used a 28-10 run over a 13-minute stretch to take a 35-30 lead at the half, and scored the first six points of the third quarter to go up by 11.

Indiana came back, pulling within 44-43, but two straight put-backs by Ford helped the Shock build a safer margin.

"Once we got over the shock of seeing Tamika get hurt, we got back into the game,'' Sam said. "But when they made another run, we just couldn't regroup again.''

Ford had nine rebounds and a blocked shot in the period, and Detroit took a 57-47 lead into the fourth. The Shock led by as many as 20 in the fourth.

"I had to suck it up and play,'' she said. "I knew my team needed me.''

Ford was called for a technical with 5:11 to play after taking a swing at Sutton-Brown.

Detroit Pistons All-Star Chauncey Billups attended the game, one day after helping the United States win the FIBA Americas tournament in Las Vegas.

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