DULUTH, Ga.(AP) Detroit coach Rick Mahorn knew leading scorer Deanna Nolan was going to come back strong after sustaining a concussion in the Shock's last game.
"She's tough,'' Mahorn said. "She got knocked pretty hard last game and took a good shot in this one as well. But she's very tough and wanted to get this game so we can move on.''
Nolan scored 22 points and Shavonte Zellous added 21 to help the Shock advance to the WNBA's Eastern Conference finals for the fourth straight year with a 94-79 victory over the Atlanta Dream on Friday night.
Alexis Hornbuckle had 15 points for the defending champion Shock, who swept the best-of-3 series and will face either Indiana or Washington in the next round.
Zellous, a rookie, expected the Dream to be tough to beat in the second-year franchise's first playoff series. She said the Shock just had to keep pace with Atlanta early and make a strong move in the second half.
"We knew coming into this game it was going to be a battle,'' Zellous said. "We weathered the storm in the first half when we were in foul trouble. In the second half, we controlled things and played to our level.''
Ivory Latta and Angel McCoughtry had 21 points each for the Dream, who made their first playoff appearance after going 4-30 in 2008.
Erika DeSouza finished with 10 points, seven rebounds and a game-high eight turnovers for Atlanta.
Latta said the playoff experience will make the Dream better for next season. She doesn't feel too bad since Atlanta made the second-best season turnaround in league history, winning 18 games this season, 14 more than its inaugural season.
"We have to regroup, come back and stay focused.'' said Latta, who was 8 of 15 from the field, including 3 of 7 from beyond the arc. "We know what the playoffs are like. We got a taste of the playoffs. For next year, we will be able to do a lot more.''
For the Shock, they're going for consecutive titles and Mahorn knows it will be tough with nine active players. Detroit was without key players Katie Smith and Plenette Pierson.
"We are playing good basketball,'' he said. "We ended the season playing well and now we are in the playoffs doing things we are supposed to do. We just have to keep it going.''
Michelle Snow's two free throws put Atlanta up 58-57 with 1:48 left in the third quarter. The Dream would not lead again as Detroit went on a 9-0 run, capped by Olayinka Sanni's layup that made it 70-61 with just over 8 minutes remaining.
Detroit, which lost the regular season series against the Dream 3-1, increased its lead to 16 points in the fourth on Kara Braxton's layup. The Shock shot 57.1 percent from the field, while holding Atlanta to 33.3 percent.
The game was played at the Gwinnett Arena after the Dream had been forced out of their home arena, Philips Arena, for the first round of the playoffs because of "Sesame Street.''