Great, Like in ’08
Smith scored a season-high 31 points as the Shock defeated the Silver Stars Sunday at The Palace, 99-81, in the first meeting since Detroit’s 3-0 sweep in the 2008 Finals.
Smith’s shooting barrage - 10-of-15 from the field, including a season-high six triples on nine attempts - was identical to the efforts last October that made her Finals MVP. She averaged 21.3 points on 52.3 percent shooting in the series, including 57.1 percent on 3-pointers.
“Some games you’re going to get looks and some games you’re not,” Smith said. “Other people are going to have shots and going to have good nights, but I feel good shooting the ball, had good looks and I should knock it down.”
Smith was also the catalyst for Saturday night’s win in Chicago, scoring 13 of her team-high 17 points during the decisive third quarter, in which Detroit outscored the Sky, 23-12. Every other quarter of the 76-67 victory was decided by two points or less.
“Katie Smith, right now she’s been a horse,” Shock coach Rick Mahorn said. “She’s been playing good basketball. Last night she played well and tonight she really gave us a big lift with all those points.”
Smith was not alone in routing San Antonio, which led by one point a few times, none after halftime. On the night her mother, Quandora, sang the Star-Spangled Banner before the game, Alexis Hornbuckle delivered her best offensive game as a pro with 14 points and seven assists. Those were both career highs, as were her three 3-pointers on three attempts. Hornbuckle also limited herself to just two turnovers in 34 minutes.
“She’s a floor general and we need to make sure she doesn’t make the mistakes of jumping in there and making the wrong pass,” Mahorn said. “She did a great job tonight controlling the tempo, looking for her shot when it was open and also getting other people the ball when she needed to.”
Leading 45-36 at halftime, the Shock blew the game open in the third quarter, leading by as many as 18 points. Taj McWilliams scored on three consecutive possessions early in the quarter to push the lead to 12. The second basket, a seven-footer, gave McWilliams 4,000 for her career, making her just the 10th player in WNBA history to reach that milestone. She finished with 13 points and seven rebounds.
“It's a great feeling to know with all the great players that have come and gone in this league you have to stand strong in order to score 4,000 points,” McWilliams said. “I have been injury-free for most of my career and in order to play in enough games, because I'm not a terrific scorer, it's about perseverance and scoring when you need to score. It's pretty amazing to know that I was able to do this as a Shock player.”
Mahorn also was impressed by McWilliams’ defense on San Antonio’s All-WNBA First Team Forward Sophia Young. Coming off a career-high 31 points two nights ago, Young scored 19 points Sunday, snapping a four-game streak of 20 points or more.
“Taj McWilliams set the tone defensively against Sophia Young,” Mahorn said. “Sophia Young is such a great and explosive player, it just seemed like she’s doing a good job on her.”
The Shock (11-14) visit San Antonio next Sunday but must pass critical tests at Connecticut Tuesday and with Atlanta Thursday before then. The Shock are still two wins behind Chicago and Washington, which are currently in position to battle for the final playoff spot.
“We dug ourselves a hole,” Smith acknowledged. “Hopefully we’ll make this thing exciting going down the stretch. We still have a lot of work to do if we want to even sniff the playoffs and that’s not even a for-sure thing depending on what other people do.”
The Detroit offense has certainly been exciting of late. One day after tying their season high with seven 3-pointers in the win at Chicago, the Shock knocked down 10 Sunday. In addition to Smith’s six and Hornbuckle’s three, Deanna Nolan scored from downtown once. Nolan had nine points Sunday.
“Big weekend, we got two wins, that we desperately needed,” Mahorn said. “It was a good win from winning a conference game at Chicago and then coming to win at home. It gets us on a little roll, hopefully we can go into Connecticut with the same philosophy and set the tone defensively.”
AfterShocks: With the Shock’s single-season free-throw percentage record-holder in attendance - Silver Stars assistant coach Sandy Brondello, who shot 92.3 percent in 1998 -- Katie Smith missed just her fourth free throw of the season in the first quarter. Smith, who made five of six Sunday, dropped from 93.9 percent on the season to 92.7 percent (51-of-55).