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By NICOLINO DIBENEDETTO, STATS Writer

The last time the Detroit Shock hosted the New York Liberty, they eliminated their Eastern Conference rivals from the playoffs in dramatic fashion.

The teams meet for the first time since last season's first-round series on Sunday when the Liberty (1-1) visit the defending conference champion Shock (3-1).

Detroit dropped its opening game of the playoffs at New York last August before taking the next two games at home. In the deciding Game 3, the Shock rallied from a five-point deficit with two minutes left in overtime to win 71-70. They also benefited from Janel McCarville's missed free throw with 3.7 seconds remaining, which would have tied the game.

The Shock, though, failed to repeat as league champions, losing to Phoenix in the WNBA finals.

Deanna Nolan scored 22 points with six assists and five rebounds in the Game 3 victory over New York, and averaged 18.0 points in the series.

Nolan, who is averaging 14.5 points and 6.0 assists this season, was impressive again Friday. She went 13-for-23 from the field and scored 24 of her 33 points in the second half while dishing out eight assists in an 88-76 win over expansion Atlanta.

However, Nolan left the game in the fourth quarter after hurting her left arm, which was later seen in a sling.

Shock coach Bill Laimbeer didn't appear to be concerned with the injury, and stressed the team's defensive effort.

"In the second half, we played defense, got the offensive rebounds, and that was the difference in the game," Laimbeer said. "I basically told them (at halftime) that it was a national television game and that the only way for us to get back in the game was to play defense and get rebounds."

Cheryl Ford, who had seven points and 13 rebounds against the Dream, is one of Detroit's top defensive players. The forward is among the league leaders with 10.8 boards per game after averaging more than 11.0 in each of the last two seasons.

These teams split the regular-season series 2-2 last year, including a pair of games at The Palace of Auburn Hills that went to overtime.

The Liberty are hoping to get a measure of revenge against the Shock in their first road game of 2008.

"We match up well with Detroit," Liberty coach Pat Coyle said. "It's always a battle with them. Going on the road, we've beaten them there. They're the best team in the East, they're picked to win it so let's see what we can do against them."

New York is looking to build on Thursday's impressive 79-60 win over Washington, as Shameka Christon and Cathrine Kraayeveld scored 17 points apiece.

Christon, who leads the Liberty with 15.5 points per game, was limited to nine points by Detroit in Game 3 after totaling 35 in the first two games of the series.

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