Fever hoping to end losing streak to Detroit

Sep 22, 2009 - 10:07 PM AUBURN HILLS, Mich.(AP) -- The Indiana Fever are one step away from the WNBA finals. The remaining obstacle, though, is one they've never been able to overcome.

The Fever open the Eastern Conference finals Wednesday against the Detroit Shock, the defending champion and the team that has eliminated Indiana in each of the last three postseasons. All three times, Detroit went to the finals and won titles twice.

"We know they've put us out, and, in a way, it is better for us to play Detroit," said MVP candidate Tamika Catchings of the Fever. "All we've talked about this year is Detroit owning the East, and now we've got to go there and beat them if we want to win the championship."

Catchings has been on the losing side of all three series and is desperate to end the streak.

"All of those series are on my mind right now," she said. "Every year, we've thought it was going to be our year, and they've been the ones to knock us out, so this year, our focus is even better."

Last year, the teams played in the first round, and Indiana forced a decisive Game 3 at the Palace in Auburn Hills. Detroit looked vulnerable, having lost Cheryl Ford to a midseason knee injury and then seeing Plenette Pierson go down with a shoulder injury in Game 2.

As it turned out, though, the game was no contest. The Shock led 41-10 midway through the second quarter and wound up winning easily, 80-61.

This year, the circumstances are somewhat similar. Pierson is in street clothes again, having missed the entire season after aggravating the shoulder injury in the first game. The Shock are also missing Katie Smith with a back injury.

Detroit has also had to overcome the surprise departure of longtime head coach Bill Laimbeer, who resigned early in the season to pursue an NBA coaching job. He is now an assistant with the Minnesota Timberwolves.

The Shock started the year 9-14, but won nine of their last 11 games to finish as the third seed in the East, then swept Atlanta in the first round.

"We got through the adversity, the injuries and coaching change and then just started playing Shock basketball again," Ford said. "We picked up our defense and started to jell."

Detroit also won the last regular-season meeting between the teams, holding the Fever to 27 percent shooting in a 70-63 overtime victory Sept. 4.

"This is just another challenge," said Rick Mahorn, who took over as coach after several years as Laimbeer's top assistant. "Indiana is a tough ball club - they were the best team in the East - so we know we've got our work cut out, but this is a very resilient group of ladies."

Catchings agrees, having seen what the Shock have done to her team year after year.

"They didn't start the season well," she said. "They were in a slump, but they finished the season like a championship team. It's going to be a great series."

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