Shock take Game One of WNBA Finals despite late collapseOct 2, 2008 - 5:25 AM SAN ANTONIO (Ticker) -- Not even the loss of a sizable lead could spoil the Detroit Shock's quest to get back on top.
Katie Smith and Taj McWilliams-Franklin both scored six points in the fourth quarter as Detroit overcame a late push by the San Antonio Silver Stars to post a 77-69 victory in Game One of the WNBA Finals on Wednesday.
Smith finished with a playoff career-high 25 points and nine rebounds and McWilliams-Franklin added 24 and seven for the Shock, who are appearing in the Finals for the third straight season. Detroit fell in five games to Phoenix last year after claiming its second title in four years in 2006.
"Katie and Taj set the tone for us at the beginning of the game," said Detroit guard Deanna Nolan, who had 10 points and five rebounds. "In the last series we had problems starting out making shots, and they wanted to get us going, specially Taj, and Katie followed right behind her."
Despite playing on short rest after Monday's win over New York in the Eastern Conference finals and being without third-leading scorer Plenette Pierson once again due to a shoulder injury, the Shock were in control nearly throughout.
"They came out shooting and they came out really hot," Silver Stars forward Sophia Young said. "We can give them credit; they outplayed us tonight."
Detroit entered the fourth quarter with a 59-49 lead and extended the advantage to 14 points before San Antonio made its push.
Young scored five of her 21 points during an 8-0 run, and Becky Hammon came up with two tough layups before knotting the score at 69-69 on a pair of free throws with 2:15 remaining.
That was when the Shock flexed their muscle inside, with McWilliams-Franklin finding Kara Braxton on the left block for a layup and a foul. The 6-6 forward missed the following free throw, but Detroit regained possession by winning a tip after tying up the loose ball.
Smith followed with a jumper to make it 73-69 with 1:42 remaining before Young missed a jumper on the other end. After the Shock came up empty on their next possession, Hammon traveled on a drive to the baseline.
The Silver Stars experienced another empty possession when Young came up with a steal but missed the following jumper with 32 seconds left. McWilliams-Franklin extended the lead to 75-69 on a pair of free throws with 11 seconds later.
"That's good for us to know that even in those situations, we don't back down and we just fight," San Antonio forward Ann Wauters said of the late rally. "But then it was, of course, disappointing for us that we could not close it and especially in that first game at home that we couldn't get away with a win."
Although she was just acquired by Detroit in August, McWilliams-Franklin is another veteran of the postseason, reaching the Finals in back-to-back seasons with Connecticut in 2004-05.
"We have five or six people who have been in the Finals and been in the playoffs and they're vets at that, so we just ride on their backs," said Braxton, who had 10 points and four rebounds.
The Silver Stars' leading scorer, Hammon struggled against the Shock's swarming defense, scoring 13 points on 4-of-10 shooting with four turnovers.
"So we have quality guards who play defense," Detroit coach Bill Laimbeer said. "So in individual one-on-one (situations) they can hold their own, and they can push them to where help is going to be. As long as the help understands their responsibilities, that's how we can keep great players from dominating the game."
Making its first appearance in the WNBA Finals, San Antonio will also host Game Two on Friday.
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