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By SANTOSH VENKATARAMAN, STATS Editor

Three times already this postseason, the defending WNBA champion Detroit Shock have avoided elimination.

They'll try to do it for a fourth time Monday night when they host the Indiana Fever in the decisive third game of the Eastern Conference finals.

Detroit finished a league-best 24-10 this year to earn home-court advantage throughout the playoffs. The Shock took full advantage of the edge in the first round, rallying after losing the opener by 22 points at New York to defeat the Liberty twice at home.

It's a pattern Detroit hopes repeats itself in this round. The Fever won 75-65 on Friday at home in the first game before the Shock evened the series with a 77-63 win Sunday.

"We played all year to make sure that we'd get to play (Monday's) game at home," Detroit coach Bill Laimbeer said. "This team has heart and a strong will, and they're also a pretty good basketball team. We've done what we've supposed to do - win our home games."

Deanna Nolan finished with 24 points and Katie Smith added 14 for Detroit, which scored 52 points over the second and third quarters to take control Sunday. Swin Cash grabbed a team-high nine rebounds and Detroit held a 42-22 edge on the glass.

The Shock also went 3-0 when facing elimination en route to capturing its second title last year.

"We love playing with our backs against the wall," Nolan said. "That's when our energy gets going."

Indiana continues to struggled from the field against Detroit's zone defense. The Fever shot just under 37 percent in Game 2 after overcoming their 32-percent effort to win the opener.

"We have to play better against the zone in Game 3," Indiana coach Brian Winters said. "When we miss shots against that zone, it lets them get out and run, and when Nolan gets space, she's so fast that she's going to hurt you."

The Shock took a 21-point lead into the fourth quarter Sunday, allowing them to rest Cheryl Ford. The All-Star forward, who has been bothered by knee problems, played just 22 minutes.

"That was big," Laimbeer said. "I wanted to buy her as much time for (Game 3) as possible."

Indiana, which has never advanced to the WNBA finals, needs star forward Tamika Catchings to revert to her Game 1 form. Catchings had seven points and four rebounds in Game 2 after recording 22 points and 11 boards in the opener.

The Shock also eliminated the Fever from last year's playoffs with a two-game sweep in the first round.

Home teams are 8-0 in the Eastern Conference playoffs this year. The winner advances to play Western Conference champion Phoenix beginning Wednesday.

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