Series Preview: Indiana Fever vs. Detroit Shock
By Mark Bodenrader,

Ron Hoskins/NBAE/Getty Images
The 2009 Eastern Conference Finals between the top-seeded Indiana Fever and third-seeded Detroit Shock figures to be a grind-it-out battle, as it features two teams that have utilized defense and physicality to reach elite status over the past few years. That you can count on. But the inevitable style of play is just one of the many layers this intriguing series is comprised of.

The Fever had by far the best overall regular season of any team in the East, posting a 22-12 record and three wins in four matchups versus Detroit, and are playing in the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 2007 after an opening round sweep of the Washington Mystics. In that last trip to the conference finals, however, the Fever fell to the Shock -- the team that has stood in Indiana's way for the past three seasons. That defeat and Indiana's overall playoff series record of 0-3 against Detroit, including an opening-round ouster last year, will be weighing on the minds of Fever players as they attempt to advance to their first WNBA Finals in team history.

This is especially true for Fever stars Tamika Catchings and Katie Douglas, who have been thwarted in heart-breaking fashion by Detroit in postseasons past. While Douglas was with the Connecticut Sun, she went 1-2 in series versus the Shock, suffering a pair of Eastern Conference Finals defeats (2003 and 2006) and watching Detroit go on to win the title in each case. In the 2006 series, Douglas missed the opener after suffering a hairline fracture to her right foot in the previous round. She returned for Games 2 and 3, but clearly was not 100 percent. Catchings has gone 0-3 in playoff series against Detroit, but only one of those defeats has come in the conference finals (2007). In that series, Catchings suffered a torn Achilles in the deciding game, which Detroit won 81-65 on its home floor. When Catchings departed the contest Indiana trailed by only three, 33-30, which had to leave her and the Fever pondering what might have been if she had been able to play for the duration.

Gm 1: at Detroit., Wed., 9/23, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN2
Gm 2: at Indiana, Fri., 9/25, 7 p.m. ET, NBA TV
Gm 3*: at Indiana, Sat., 9/26, 7 p.m. ET, NBA TV
But while Indiana may have been the class of the East for the majority of '09, and thus owns the crucial home-court advantage in this series, Detroit enters this tilt as arguably the hottest team in the league. The defending champs have won 11 of their last 13 and are fresh off an impressive two-game sweep of the higher-seeded Atlanta Dream in the conference semis. And even though Indiana actually got the better of the Shock during regular season, winning three of their four meetings while holding Rick Mahorn's crew to an average of 63.3 points per game, Detroit captured the last matchup on September 4. The Fever were without Douglas in that contest because of an ankle injury, but the Shock were also without the services of Katie Smith.

Smith is doubtful to play in this series because of an injured back that has sidelined her since August 27, but the Shock will likely have the red-hot Deanna Nolan, despite a scare she received in the Atlanta series. Nolan suffered a concussion in the opening game against the Dream after hitting her head on the floor on a drive to the basket, but returned to score a game-high 22 points in 37 minutes of action in the Game 2 clincher. Nolan will no doubt have Catchings breathing down her neck this entire series though, which means rookie Shavonte Zellous will likely be called upon to maintain the scoring prowess she displayed against Atlanta.

But whether or not the Shock advance past the Fever will likely have less to do with their offense and more to do with how well they defend Douglas and Catchings, who are currently playing the best basketball of their careers.

It may be cliche at this point to say that the Shock are used to playing basketball this time of year, but with this being their fourth straight appearance in the Eastern Conference Finals, it really can't be emphasized enough. And Detroit has won all of those prior trips to the conference finals (plus another in 2003), which means a win over Indiana would give the Shock their fourth straight appearance in the WNBA Finals. Only one other team in the history of the WNBA has accomplished that feat (Houston Comets, 1997-2000).

2009 Regular Season: Indiana 3 - Detroit 1
Some fast facts about the conference finals matchup:
  • Detroit snapped a three-game skid to Indiana in their last meeting on September 4.
  • The Shock scored a season-low 54 points in their June 19 game against Indiana.
  • Katie Douglas averaged 18.7 ppg versus Detroit this season, but missed the last meeting with an injured left ankle.
  • Detroit has never lost an Eastern Conference Finals series (4-0) and has won the last three.
  • Indiana is 0-2 all-time in the Eastern Conference Finals, including a 2007 loss to Detroit.
  • Detroit defeated Indiana, 2-1, in their 2008 Eastern Conference Semifinals series.
  • Detroit has eliminated Indiana from the playoffs in each of the past three years.

Friday, June 19. Palace of Auburn Hills. Auburn Hills, MI: Fever 66, Shock 54 | Box score | Highlights
Indiana Leaders: Tamika Catchings (15 pts., 6 reb., 4 ast.), Katie Douglas (14 pts., 6 reb.)
Detroit Leaders: Deanna Nolan (13 pts.), Alexis Hornbuckle (9 pts., 10 reb.)

Sunday, June 21, Conseco Fieldhouse. Indianapolis, IN: Fever 82, Shock 70 | Box score | Highlights
Detroit Leaders: Deanna Nolan (16 pts., 8 reb., 6 ast.), Katie Smith (15 pts.)
Indiana Leaders: Katie Douglas (23 pts., 6 reb.), Tamika Catchings (15 pts., 6 ast.)

Saturday, August 15, Conseco Fieldhouse. Indianapolis, IN: Fever 82, Shock 59 | Box score | Highlights
Detroit Leaders: Shavonte Zellous (16 pts., 3 ast., 3 stl.), Kara Braxton (8 pts., 10 reb.)
Indiana Leaders: Katie Douglas (19 pts., 4 ast.), Briann January (17 pts., 3 ast., 3 stl.)

Friday, September 4, Palace of Auburn Hills. Auburn Hills, MI: Shock 70, Fever 63 | Box score | Highlights
Indiana Leaders: Tamika Catchings (14 pts., 13 reb.), Briann January (13 pts., 4 reb.)
Detroit Leaders: Deanna Nolan (20 pts., 5 reb., 4 ast.), Shavonte Zellous (16 pts., 4 reb.)

See how the teams match up position by position
*Averages are from 2009 WNBA Playoffs
Alexis Hornbuckle, G, Shock
15.0 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 4.5 APG
Tully Bevilaqua, G, Fever
9.0 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 4.5 APG
Deanna Nolan, G, Shock
23.5 PPG, 1.5 RPG, 4.0 APG
Katie Douglas, G, Fever
16.0 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 3.5 APG
Nikki Teasley, F, Shock
5.0 PPG, 0.0 RPG, 4.0 APG
Tamika Catchings, F, Fever
25.0 PPG, 14.0 RPG, 4.0 APG
Taj McWilliams, F, Shock
8.5 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 1.5 APG
Ebony Hoffman, F, Fever
4.0 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 1.5 APG
Cheryl Ford, C, Shock
8.5 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 2.5 APG
Tammy Sutton-Brown, C, Fever
14.0 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 0.5 APG