Detroit 76, San Antonio 60
En route to being name Most Valuable Player, Smith scored 18 points as the Shock completed a sweep of the San Antonio Silver Stars to win their third title in six seasons with a 76-60 victory in Game Three of the WNBA Finals on Sunday afternoon.
“The MVP goes to all of us,” Smith said. “(Taj McWilliams-Franklin) gave us huge minutes with Plenette (Pierson) being out, that was big. And it’s fun to play here in Detroit and fun to play with these guys, and I wouldn’t want it any other way. I’m going to take this year and go back home and relax and not do anything else for a while.”
McWilliams-Franklin scored 13 points for the Shock, who finished off the Silver Stars after becoming the first team to win Games One and Two on the road since the league expanded the Finals to its current five-game format in 2005.
Detroit, which suffered a painful five-game loss to the Phoenix Mercury in the Finals last season, did not want history to repeat itself, according to coach Bill Laimbeer.
“This is what we thought was going to happen when we started the season,” said Laimbeer, who is used to postseason success thanks to his time with the champion Detroit Pistons nearly two decades ago. “We had a good team. We knew we had a good team. It was a matter of going out there and executing, staying healthy, which we couldn’t do over the year.
“But we knew we had players. We knew we had heart. And we knew we had a mindset of that, we are the best team, and we had a bad taste in our mouth from last year.”
With “Disney on Ice” occupying the Palace of Auburn Hills and the Detroit Red Wings playing in nearby Joe Louis Arena, Detroit was forced play at Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti, Michigan, approximately 40 miles outside the Motor City. The celebration no doubt will reach back to Detroit proper.
The Shock, for their part, made no excuses about their unfamiliar surroundings.
“It was our floor and our rims, our baskets,” Laimbeer said. “To play someplace else, OK, it happens. We understand that. It’s not the best situation, but we understand it.”
Smith, who combined to score 47 points on 17-of-33 shooting in the first two contests, was 6-of-10 from the field, including 2-of-2 from the arc in this one for Detroit, which outscored San Antonio, 46-26, in the second half to cement the victory.
She made up for a lackluster series from leading scorer Nolan, who combined to score just 33 points on 13-of-45 shooting in the best-of-five matchup.
“Deanna Nolan (did not have) her best series,” Laimbeer said. “The last one was her series, this one was not. She just didn’t feel it. Deanna Nolan is bionic, she can play forever, but sometimes she gets a little bit tired.
“This was Katie Smith’s series and Deanna Nolan, while she gets forced into taking shots, they didn’t go in and that’s why her shooting percentage was low; she plays great defense consistently all the time and she passed well tonight. And she’s a decoy sometimes.”
Becky Hammon scored five points on just 1-of-10 shooting for the Silver Stars, who did not put forth a good performance in their first trip to the championship series in franchise history.
“You have to look at the reality, but (the Shock) have been here, what, three straight years at this point?” San Antonio coach Dan Hughes said. “I don’t know if they have had the consistency you saw early, but the simple reality is that they are playing at that level. And you have to tip your hat to them.”