Katie Smith hits a step-back jumper over Sophia Young with 41 seconds remaining in the game to seal the win for Detroit.
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“Katie Smith – The Crowd Killer.”
Smith earned the moniker by hitting clutch shot after clutch shot in the Shock’s 69-61 win on Friday. Each time the Silver Stars put together a run, each time the 16,012 fans at the AT&T Center appeared ready to erupt, Smith was able to hit shots to stymie the run and silence the crowd.
“It was her will that was carrying us tonight,” said Shock coach Bill Laimbeer. “She was very determined that we’re not going to lose this game, we’re not going to lose this series. It’s her will power that is carrying us right now.”
Detroit jumped out to a 19-2 lead to start the game and led 25-12 at the end of the first quarter. As the second quarter got underway, the tables turned and San Antonio began to click offensively while the Shock offense, which had been so effective in the first half, was in disarray.
The Shock opened the quarter by missing their first four shots and committing seven turnovers in the first six minutes of the period and saw their 17-point lead continue to dwindle. After Ann Wauters hit a layup to pull San Antonio to within a point, Smith took it upon herself to stop the run as she took the ball at the top of the key and drove hard to the basket for a layup to end San Antonio’s 12-0 run.
“When it counts, when we needed it, Katie got a bucket to get us going and we just kind of jump on her back and follow,” said Shock guard Alexis Hornbuckle.
After a turnover from San Antonio’s Becky Hammon, Hornbuckle hit a bank shot on Detroit’s next possession to increase the lead to five. When Sophia Young came back and hit a bank shot of her own, Smith once again took the ball strong to the hoop and scored another layup.
Smith’s layups not only slowed San Antonio’s momentum, they also helped to calm the Shock down as they were able to take a seven-point lead into the half despite going scoreless for nearly six minutes in the second quarter.
After the break, the Silver Stars came out strong and once again began to cut into the Detroit lead. With 3:26 to play in the third quarter, Hammon hit a pair of free throws to tie the game for the first time since the opening tip.
With the crowd at its loudest and all of the momentum on San Antonio’s side, Detroit did not panic – especially Smith. She just responded by hitting a 3-pointer on Detroit’s next possession.
Two more Hammon free throws and a jumper from Ruth Riley gave the Silver Stars their first lead of the game with 2:20 to play in the quarter.
Once again, Smith hit a jumper on Detroit’s next possession to put the Shock back up by one.
The lead exchanged hands one more time prior to the end of the quarter. A pair of free throws by Smith gave the Shock a three-point edge heading into the fourth.
As the fourth quarter got underway, it seemed as if Detroit had weathered the San Antonio run as they built an 11-point lead with just under five minutes to play. But San Antonio had one more push left.
With Hammon catching fire from 3-point range and the crowd trying to rally its team to a comeback win in the game’s final minutes, Smith hit two huge jumpers to negate the Silver Stars' rally and settle the fans back into their seats.
Smith’s biggest shot came with just over 40 seconds remaining in the game. San Antonio had cut the lead to five to pull within two possessions when Smith took the ball at the top of the key, drove to her right and pulled up for a step-back jumper from 18 feet. The shot was good and it proved to be the dagger as San Antonio would pull no closer the rest of the way.
“She is so focused on every aspect of the basketball game,” said Laimbeer. “Whether it's defense, and when she has to switch over to Hammon or whether it's guarding the post, or on offense, running the show at the one or playing two or the three and looking to be a scorer. This was a game where she took over mentally and physically in the later parts of the game.”
After posting a career playoff high 25 points in Game 1, Smith put in 22 points in Game 2 along with five rebounds and six assists. With the Shock holding a 2-0 lead as the series shifts to Detroit, Smith has established herself as the leading candidate for Finals MVP.
“I expect so much from Katie Smith,” said Laimbeer. “And this is two games in a row where I actually had to compliment her on going over and above the call of duty. She played phenomenal.”
As her praises were being lauded by her teammates and coaches after the game, Smith remained humble when it came to judging her own performance.
“We have confidence in what I can do, but also I understand that if my option is taken I can kick it back to Taj or whatever,” she said. “If you have a look you take it and if you don’t we got the second option and it was a good thing I hit a couple of shots.”
The “couple of shots” that Smith hit in Game 2 helped Detroit take a commanding 2-0 lead as the series shifts to Detroit for Games 3 and 4 with the Shock needing just one win to secure the title.
“Katie’s been on, and we’ve got to give her the ball in situations that call for us needing a basket or making a play,” said Deanna Nolan. “As you can see, she’s getting it done for us, and we’re going to keep giving it to her.”
In the first two games of the series, much of San Antonio’s defensive attention has been put on Nolan – and for good reason since she came into the Finals as Detroit’s leading scorer at over 20 points per game. The Silver Stars may have to shift their focus in Game 3.
“Katie Smith has just been killing us,” said Hammon. “We're going have to find a solution for her.”