Hours after being named to her third U.S. Olympic team, the Detroit Shock forward scored a game-high 19 points, sending the Indiana Fever to their first home loss of the year, 74-65.
Smith, who missed 19 of 22 attempts in the three games prior, made her first two shots Saturday. She finished 7-of-19 from the field, including three triples.
Though Smith’s second jumper tied the game at 10, Indiana never trailed before halftime, building its largest lead at 25-15.
Elaine Powell sliced into it at the buzzer with a half-court heave that banked in, cutting Detroit’s deficit to only four. Powell ended up with 12 points, five rebounds and three assists. It was Powell’s highest-scoring game since a 14-point outing in 2005.
Smith led Detroit (5-1) at halftime with nine and Powell added six, helping mask the scoreless first-half performances by Deanna Nolan, Cheryl Ford and Plenette Pierson, who shot a combined 0-for-10 from the field.
To be ahead only 32-28 at halftime was a missed opportunity by Indiana (3-2). All three of Detroit’s leading ladies made critical plays in the third quarter, when the Shock outscored the Fever, 25-12, and took control of the game.
A three-point play by Ford gave Detroit its first lead, 35-34, before the 8-minute mark. Smith and Indiana’s Ebony Hoffman exchanged 3-pointers, then Nolan assisted on a Pierson layup to make it 47-44.
On the next possession Pierson rebounded Smith’s missed jumper and found Alexis Hornbuckle for a layup to make 49-44. The Shock were afforded a 7-to-11 point cushion most of the remainder.
“We took care of the ball and we actually made a few more shots [after halftime],” Smith said. “We had good (looks) in the first half but just didn’t knock them down. So really in the first five minutes we came out and really tied this thing up quick and it was a whole new ball game.”
The Fever were doomed by Detroit’s 21 offensive rebounds, including four each by Ford, Pierson and Hornbuckle. The tone was set early by rookie center Olayinka Sanni, who had two put-back scores in the first quarter.
“It was obvious it was the rebounding,” said Fever forward Tammy Sutton-Brown, who had 11 points and six boards. “They are the No. 1 rebounding team for a reason. Detroit is always going to be a physical game. We have to match them and not expect the officials to call everything. When you look at the difference in the stat sheet, it is rebounding.”
The other statistical difference could be found in Katie Douglas’ point total. The WNBA’s second-leading scorer was held well below her 24.5-point average. The Indiana forward had nine points on 2-of-8 shooting.
In addition to their 76-71 home win over Indiana on May 21, the Shock have taken the season series against the Fever without having to face All-Star forward Tamika Catchings, who has yet to return from the torn Achilles’ tendon she suffered in Game 3 of the 2007 Eastern Conference finals at Detroit.
It’s an unfortunate scheduling break for Indiana, which expects Catchings back on the floor in June. They won’t face the Shock again until Sept. 5, and will have to overtake first-place Detroit (5-1) outright in the standings.
“Big opportunity for us to beat Indiana twice now and we’ll take that,” Smith said. “Down the stretch if there’s a tiebreaker, we’ll have it.”