AUBURN HILLS, Mich., Sept. 23 (AP) - The Detroit Shock played angry Tuesday night.
It turned out pretty well.
Detroit led Indiana 41-10 midway through the second quarter and cruised to an 80-61 victory in Game 3 to advance to its third straight Eastern Conference final.
"Obviously, that was a spectacular performance on both ends of the floor,'' Shock coach Bill Laimbeer said. "That was the way a championship-caliber team plays.''
Detroit, which got 21 points from Deanna Nolan and 15 from Katie Smith, will face New York in the conference finals. Last season, the Shock beat New York and Indiana in the first two rounds before losing the WNBA finals to Phoenix.
"That's a very tough team - we learned that last year,'' Smith said.
The Shock were furious about an incident in Game 2 that saw star forward Plenette Pierson suffer a dislocated shoulder after being flipped to the court by Indiana's Ebony Hoffman. The Shock's outrage only grew when Hoffman was fined, but not suspended, by the league.
That meant she was on the floor for Tuesday's opening tip while Pierson was on the Detroit bench with her right arm in a sling.
"When you are a man down, you are always going to pick up your game, but this was different because of the way it happened - this was one of our players getting intentionally injured by an opponent,'' Laimbeer said. "The league's pathetic response incensed us even more.''
The fired-up Shock scored the game's first 12 points, led 30-7 at the end of the first quarter and continued to pour it on in the second.
"I think we were stunned,'' Indiana's Tamika Catchings said. "There was a point where you looked up at the scoreboard and we were down by 30 in the first half, and they were still coming at us on both ends of the floor. I just wanted us to wake up.''
The half might have been summed best by the final 20 seconds. Indiana held the ball for a last shot, despite trailing by 30 points, and Tammy Sutton-Brown hit a layup with 7.1 seconds to play.
The shot turned out to be meaningless, though, as Nolan dribbled through a static Indiana defense and hit a buzzer-beating jumper that gave Detroit a 49-19 lead at the break.
"I think losing Plenette added a little fire to our game,'' Nolan said. "Bill told Katie and me to get our shots tonight, and we just wanted to run and keep going after them.''
Nolan, Taj McWilliams-Franklin and Smith combined for 34 points in the half, while Indiana's trio of Katie Douglas, Catchings and Hoffman were scoreless on 0-for-12 shooting. For most of the opening two periods, the Fever had more turnovers than points.
"Give Detroit an enormous amount of credit, because they just rammed the ball down our throats and we didn't respond,'' Indiana coach Lin Dunn said. "We had talked about the way we knew that Detroit would come out after the way they lost Game 2, but I don't think our team processed that information.''
After getting 15 points in the controversial Game 2 win, Hoffman didn't score in Game 3.
"I had hoped that all of this wouldn't bother her, but look at the scoresheet - she was 0-for-6,'' Dunn said. "I know she was very upset about being fined and given a flagrant technical foul.''
The Fever made their only serious run in the third quarter, starting the period with a 22-5 run to cut the margin to 54-41. During one stretch, Douglas had breakaway layups on three straight possessions as the Shock began to look rattled.
Detroit moved the lead to 60-43 at the end of the period, then scored the first five points of the fourth and cruised to the victory.
Because of scheduling conflicts, the Shock will play their home games against New York - on Sunday and, if necessary, Monday - at Eastern Michigan University, about an hour from the Palace of Auburn Hills. In 2006, Detroit clinched their second WNBA title at Joe Louis Arena in downtown Detroit in similar circumstances.
"It is what it is - we'll have our floor and our baskets, and I expect that the place will be packed with Shock fans,'' Laimbeer said. "We'll handle it.''
Laimbeer said Tuesday that he does not expect Pierson to play against the Liberty, although she told the team that she intends to try.