for this game

Shock-Fever Preview

Sep 26, 2009 - 3:39 AM By SANTOSH VENKATARAMAN STATS Senior Writer

Detroit (18-16) at Indiana (22-12), 7:00 p.m. EDT

Tamika Catchings and the Indiana Fever have another chance to go where they've never gone before. In order to do so, they've got to finally get over the hump against the team that has become their nemesis.

Catchings and the Fever look to advance to the WNBA finals for the first time Saturday night when they host the defending champion Detroit Shock in a decisive Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals.

Indiana is in the conference finals for the third time, but has never gotten past this round. The Fever have been eliminated by Detroit in each of the last three years, falling in three games in the conference semifinals last year.

"We've been here before," Catchings said. "They've been in this situation before, they've beaten us in this situation before."

The Shock extended their postseason winning streak to eight games with an easy 72-56 victory in Game 1 on Wednesday in Detroit, causing Indiana coach Lin Dunn to criticize her team's effort.

The Fever responded by avoiding elimination with a 79-75 win Friday to snap Detroit's streak. After being named the WNBA's defensive player of the year for the third time before the game, Catchings responded with 22 points, nine rebounds and six steals to key the victory.

Catchings went down after a hard foul by Shock point guard Alexis Hornbuckle, but said her neck already was hurting before she absorbed the shot with 3:06 left in the third quarter. The Fever star felt the contact was excessive.

"It is what it is," she said. "That's what they do. They come in and play a physical game and you have to be ready for it. You have to deal with it and kind of move on."

Indiana finished with 18 steals and forced 24 Detroit turnovers. The Fever converted those miscues into 28 points and handed the Shock their third loss in 15 games.

"It doesn't feel good to lose," Shock coach Rick Mahorn said. "We're going to watch film and make adjustments."

Pacers Sports and Entertainment president Larry Bird has purchased the entire balcony - 9,000 seats - for Saturday's game. Free tickets will be available for Fever fans starting at 10 a.m., with a maximum of eight per person.

Deanna Nolan led all scorers Friday with 23 points for Detroit to continue her strong postseason. She's averaging 23.0 points in four playoff games as she tries to pick up the slack for the Shock, who are missing injured second-leading scorer Katie Smith (back).

Shock reserve Shavonte Zellous had 19 points and nine rebounds. The rookie has shown few jitters in the postseason, averaging 18.8 points after scoring 11.9 per game in the regular season.

Including playoffs, Indiana is 13-0 this year at home against East foes.

"We feel no outside pressure," Dunn said. "We just want to play the best basketball that we can. We made lots of adjustments personnel wise in the off season in order to get to the finals."