Smith scored 25 points and McWilliams-Franklin had 24, and they helped Detroit take a first step toward reclaiming the WNBA title by leading the Shock to a 77-69 win over the San Antonio Silver Stars on Wednesday night in Game 1 of the WNBA Finals.
"It was clear they were trying to take Deanna Nolan away,'' Shock coach Bill Laimbeer said. "But Katie Smith was huge. Taj was phenomenal.''
Nolan scored 10 points, a playoff low this season after averaging 20.7 points per game in the postseason coming into the finals. She made 5 of 16 from the floor and missed all four of her 3-point tries.
"Katie and Taj set the tone for us,'' Nolan said. "It's not necessarily that I have to get off (and score) because we have other players that can step in and help.''
Smith, a member of the Shock team that won the title two years ago, had nine rebounds, was 4-of-8 on 3-pointers and made all five free throws while playing all 40 minutes.
McWilliams-Franklin was 11 of 16 from the floor despite asthma problems.
The Silver Stars, who lost to an Eastern Conference team for the first time this season after 14 wins, were led by Sophia Young's 21 points and 16 from Ann Wauters.
San Antonio's Becky Hammon, who scored 35 points in the decisive Game 3 of the Western Conference finals on Sunday, scored 13 points on 4-of-10 shooting in Game 1.
"I thought we let them get too comfortable offensively,'' Hammon said. "We just weren't ourselves in the first half. It's disappointing to come out and lack energy in a game like that.''
Detroit, WNBA champions in 2006, also won Game 1 last year but lost a five-game series to Phoenix. Game 2 of the best-of-five series is Friday in San Antonio.
Smith came through for the Shock at the most critical times.
"She wanted the basketball,'' Laimbeer said. "Her will pushed us a long way today.''
Smith helped the Shock build a 10-point lead at halftime when she connected on a 4-point play - a 3-pointer from 22 feet plus a free throw after Young's foul - that put Detroit ahead 40-30.
"I put it up and got hit in the chest,'' Smith said.
Smith's jumper from 19 feet with 8:19 to play gave Detroit a 14-point lead. But the Silver Stars outscored the Shock 20-6 during the next six minutes.
Hammon scored on two straight layups and then hit two free throws to tie the game with 2:16 to go.
But Kara Braxton scored inside and was fouled. She missed the free throw, but Detroit rebounded and Smith sank a jumper to make it 73-69 with 1:44 left and the Shock hit four free throws to close out the game.
"It wasn't surprising that they made a run against us,'' Smith said. "We had a couple of looks. But we missed a couple of shots, and they hit a couple. The crowd gets into it. It does happen.''
Detroit didn't get its first lead until 2:19 into the second quarter when Smith made two free throws to go up 21-20 before the Shock outscored San Antonio 21-12 the rest of the half for the double-digit margin.
The Silver Stars went cold, shooting 4-of-16 in the second quarter. San Antonio played without key reserves Helen Darling and Edwige Lawson-Wade. Darling strained her right calf and Lawson-Wade sprained her right ankle during Saturday's Game 2 victory over Los Angeles in the Western Conference semifinals.