Plenette Pierson hadn't played for the Detroit Shock in over a month, but the forward didn't waste any time making an impact in her return.
Following her first game back from a lengthy suspension, Pierson looks to keep the Shock's momentum going on Saturday when they try to clinch the season series against the reeling Washington Mystics.
Prior to the WNBA's hiatus for the 2008 Beijing Games, Detroit (18-12) endured a four-game losing streak that included a home defeat to Los Angeles on July 22, when Pierson and Sparks rookie Candace Parker got tangled up in the final seconds, touching off a scuffle between the clubs.
The league handed out 11 suspensions, with Pierson's four-game ban the longest of the punishments. She missed the final two games before the Olympic break, and was also barred for both of Detroit's contests last weekend - an 83-69 home win over Detroit last Friday and an 82-81 overtime loss at Chicago on Sunday.
But Pierson - last season's Sixth Woman of the Year - displayed little rust in her first game back, leading the Shock with 20 points off the bench in a 90-68 home victory over Indiana on Friday.
"Between the Olympic break and the suspension, I've had a long time off," said Pierson, who is averaging 11.8 points. "I've had time to rest my body and work hard on my mental approach. I wanted to come out and play hard tonight, and I think we all did that."
Deanna Nolan scored 19 points, Kara Braxton had 12 and rookie Alexis Hornbuckle added 10 for the Shock, who clinched their sixth consecutive playoff berth with Chicago's home loss to Western Conference-leading Seattle on Thursday night.
Detroit will try to keep things going on the road, where it has lost five of its last seven.
However, the team has had better success in Washington (10-19) lately, winning the last two matchups at the Verizon Center, including a 99-66 victory on July 18 in the teams' most recent matchup.
It was the Mystics' most lopsided defeat since losing 81-47 at Connecticut on Aug. 26, 2005.
Washington, meanwhile, has dropped four straight at home, matching a skid from May 19-June 8, 2007, and most recently fell 79-68 to Indiana on Tuesday.
Alana Beard had 17 points, while Nakia Sanford added 15 for the Mystics, who have lost four straight overall, one shy of their season-high slide from May 31-June 11.
Additionally, Washington has lost both games to Detroit this season and five of its last six to the Shock. Beard has totaled just 11 points in the two losses, while Pierson has scored 10 in each contest for the Shock.
Detroit forward and six-time All-Star Taj McWilliams-Franklin played her first 26 games of the season for Washington, but will be facing her former club for the first time since being acquired Aug. 19 to replace the injured Cheryl Ford.