INDIANAPOLIS, Sept. 19 (AP) - The Detroit Shock have one focus: Game 2 against the Indiana Fever.
The Shock, who have aspirations of winning their third WNBA title since 2003, beat the Fever 81-72 Friday night in the opener of the Eastern Conference first-round playoff series.
Detroit, which swept Indiana in three regular-season games and has won five straight over the Fever - including the last two games of the 2007 conference finals - can wrap up this best-of-three series at home on Sunday.
"Close-out games are really hard,'' said Shock center Taj McWilliams-Franklin, who had 17 points and seven rebounds. "The good thing is that we're going back to Detroit, where we're much more comfortable, to play in front of our fans.
"Right now, we're just individually focused on each game. We're focused on the Indiana Fever and what we need to do to get through this series.''
"They have trouble with our personnel, our starting five,'' Nolan said of Detroit's recent dominance over Indiana. "It doesn't matter who they try to stop, somebody else is going to get off.''
Tamika Catchings posted 19 points and seven assists, Ebony Hoffman scored 19, and Tan White chipped in 11 for the Fever. Before the game, Hoffman was chosen as this season's Most Improved Player in the WNBA.
To advance to the conference finals, the Fever will have to win two games in Detroit. Last year, Indiana lost at Connecticut in the first game of the opening round and then won the next two at home.
Game 3 of this series will be played Tuesday, if necessary.
"We'll have to dig down deep and find it within ourselves,'' Hoffman said. "We'll have to find pride in ourselves to get an extra rebound, box out and do some of the little things.''
The Shock, who shot 59 percent in the first half and opened a 39-29 lead, took their biggest advantage, 68-52, on Katie Smith's two free throws with 7:42 left in the fourth quarter.
Indiana cut the deficit to 77-68 on White's layup with 1 minute left, but McWilliams-Franklin pushed the lead back to 12 points with a three-point play on Detroit's ensuing possession.
"The most important thing is to play focused and hard,'' Shock coach Bill Laimbeer said. "It's a long series, and win or lose the first game, it's important to find out who you are and what you're about. Fortunately, we were able to come away with the win.''
Indiana coach Lin Dunn was disappointed with her team's effort.
"We had great momentum going into this game, but Detroit is the best team in the league and showed it,'' she said. "We're going to refocus and go up to Detroit.''