NEW YORK -- After a slow start, the New York Liberty settled down in the second half and pulled out a victory in another tight game with the Detroit Shock.
Janel McCarville scored 17 points and Shameka Christon had 11 points and 11 rebounds to help the Liberty hold off the Shock 60-56 in the opener of the Eastern Conference finals Friday night.
New York shot 28 percent from the floor in the first half, including 0-for-8 on 3-pointers, and trailed by six at halftime. Cathrine Kraayeveld and Shameka Christon hit 3s to start the third quarter and rookie Essence Carson had a driving layup to pull the Liberty within one.
"We were anxious," New York's Erin Thorn said. "I think people needed to settle down, and once we saw Cat's shot go in everyone was like, 'We can all do this.' The team then relaxed and let it come to us."
New York beat Detroit at home in Game 1 of the first round last year, then lost two close contests at The Palace of Auburn Hills -- including by one point in overtime in Game 3. The Shock won three of four in the regular season, taking the season finale at Madison Square Garden by two points.
"We just match up well with them," Thorn said. "Other teams have a problem with their quickness and physicality, we battle with them."
Deanna Nolan scored 11 of her 22 points in the final 3 minutes and Katie Smith had 13 points for the Shock. Nolan had two 3s and hit three free throws during the final stretch to keep Detroit close, but her potential tying 3-pointer with about 10 seconds left hit off the left side of the rim.
"I got a great look, just a little off-balanced, kind of leaning to the left," Nolan said. "I think if I had been balanced it had a good chance of going in."
Thorn scored five points in the final 24 seconds to seal the win.
"It is good to get the win at home," Christon said. "It was not pretty, but it is a win. ... We had to pull this one out. It's a small step towards our ultimate goal."
New York, coming off its first postseason series win since beating Detroit in the first round in 2004, is one win away from returning to the finals for a record fifth time. The Liberty lost in the championship round against Houston in 1997, 1998 and 2000, and then to Los Angeles in 2002.
The best-of-three series shifts to Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti for Game 2 on Sunday, and Game 3, if necessary, on Monday night. The Shock's usual home, The Palace of Auburn Hills, is unavailable due to a scheduling conflict.
"We've been in this situation before," Nolan said. "That's the whole point of having home-court advantage. That's what we do, we win at home. You can't put your head down because of this game because we didn't play as good as we know we can play."
The Liberty trailed by nine late in the third quarter, but used a 12-1 run to take the lead with 5 1/2 minutes left in the game. Ashley Battle hit a 3 from the left corner with 44 seconds left in the third, Leilani Mitchell hit a 3 early in the fourth and Battle followed with a layup along the baseline to pull New York to 42-41.
Kara Braxton hit one free throw 20 seconds later to give the Shock a two-point lead.
However, McCarville's layup with 7:13 left tied the score at 43 and Christon's jumper with 5 1/2 minutes left gave New York its first lead since midway through the first quarter.
Cathrine Kraayeveld hit two free throws to push the lead to 55-50 with 1:25 left. Nolan then hit a 3 with 37 seconds left, and Thorn followed with a driving layup 14 seconds later.
Nolan hit three free throws with 18.6 left to pull the Shock to 57-56, but that was as close as they got. Thorn hit two free throws with 15 seconds left, and then one more after Nolan missed her 3-pointer.
"Erin is clutch from the free-throw line," McCarville said. "She's sealed two games for us now, hitting shots from the line. She hit big in Game 3 [against Connecticut] coming off the bench, hardly playing, and then stepping to the line and just knocking them down. Same thing tonight."
The Shock scored eight consecutive points to push the lead to 42-33 on Nolan's steal and fast-break layup with just over a minute left in the third quarter.