Rivalry With Shock Continues To Heat Up

May 31, 2008 | by Ericka Sanders

Katie Douglas’ bruised left eye wasn’t a result of tonight’s match up with the Detroit Shock, but it could have been.

A bitter rivalry that’s been steadily gaining intensity through the years, increased with Detroit’s 74-65 victory over the Indiana Fever to give them a 2-0 advantage this season. There were elbows flying, bodies crashing on the hardwood and plenty of locker room chatter on the court -- Indiana and Detroit at its finest.

“It’s definitely a boxing match out there,” said forward Ebony Hoffman. “It’s definitely a heartfelt rivalry. We’re not out there to beat anybody up, but it does get intense -- more intense than other games that we play.”

Indiana’s radio/TV broadcaster Chris Denari has called plenty of grueling matchups between the two teams and says one reason the rivalry has escalated is Shock head coach Bill Laimbeer and the obvious dislike on the court.

“One of the reasons is Bill Laimbeer. He creates a presence in the Eastern Conference just as he did when he played with the Detroit Pistons,” Denari said. “These teams don’t like each other on the floor and I think that’s a healthy thing. They have a great respect for each other, but both teams want to beat each other and unfortunately in the playoffs, Indiana’s been on the short end the last two years.”

Another reason has been the perception of Detroit's rough-and-tumble play as being dirty. Dirty or not, and whether by coincidence or not, it's a fact that the past two Fever seasons have ended on Detroit's floor with Tamika Catchings out of action, first by a concussion in 2006, later by a torn Achilles' tendon in 2007. Earlier in 2007, Catchings' plantar fascia injury was sustained against the Shock, too.

With tonight’s win and this time Douglas visiting the medical staff after the game, Detroit edged ahead of Indiana 16-15 in the series history. But in the postseason, the margin is much wider with the Shock leading 4-1.

“I think everybody in the Eastern Conference especially wants to beat Detroit. We’ve been on top three of the last five years and I think we’re the team to beat this year,” Laimbeer said. “ Indiana’s lost to us two years in the playoffs so I know they’re anxious to try and get by us. We’re going to keep doing our stuff.”

That stuff is defense, which also happens to be Indiana’s strength. Both teams are balanced in defensive field goal percentage and rebounding.

“Both teams are excellent defensive clubs and are as good as it gets in this league,” said Shock radio announcer Matt Shepard. “In order for a rivalry to take place both teams have to have a certain dislike and respect for one another and I think they do. Both teams have to be successful, both have to have proven to win on the other’s home floor and both teams need a dynamic player, and both teams have all of the above.”

It also might help that for the last two years both teams have picked to finish one and two in the Eastern Conference. Many analysts have picked Detroit to win the conference this season with Indiana a close second.

“When the two teams are picked to finish one and two, that just fuels the fire for both teams,” said Denari. “Detroit wants to maintain the No. 1 position and Indiana’s not satisfied to be second.”