Shock Facing First-time WNBA Finalist Silver Stars
Wednesday, October 1, 2008; 12:58 AM
SAN ANTONIO -- Detroit's step toward matching the WNBA dominance of the Houston Comets could come at the expense of another team from Texas.
Detroit's pursuit of a third title begins Wednesday in Game 1 of the WNBA finals against the San Antonio Silver Stars. The Shock already share a couple of distinctions with the Comets -- four trips to the finals overall and streaks of three straight appearances in the league's 11-year history. Houston won the first four league championships from 1997-2000.
"We're where we expected to be -- in the finals," Detroit coach Bill Laimbeer said. "That's who we are. That's all we talk about. Anything else is a lost season for us."
That's not quite the standard for the Silver Stars, who were 1.3 seconds away from elimination in the Western Conference finals against Los Angeles. Down 1-0 in the series and 66-65 in Game 2, San Antonio forced a deciding game on Sophia Young's 14-foot turnaround shot at the buzzer. The Silver Stars won the series a day later.
"Although it was a good series against the Los Angeles Sparks, it's over," said Young, who won a national championship at Baylor. "Detroit is a completely different team, and you have to have a completely different approach to this team."
The Shock lost the opener of the Eastern Conference finals in New York before winning twice at home. The Liberty came back from a 20-point deficit in the deciding game but fell short, 75-73.
Detroit had that home-court advantage because it won its last five games of the regular season and six of seven after the monthlong Olympic break, when the team traded for Taj McWilliams-Franklin to fill the void left by Cheryl Ford's season-ending knee injury.
McWilliams-Franklin had 19 points and eight rebounds in the deciding game against New York after struggling in the first two games of the series.
"Having Taj here is huge," said forward Katie Smith, who has averaged 14 points in the past five games. "She just fits in very, very well with this squad. All of us kind of found that piece we were missing, especially when Cheryl went down."
The Silver Stars (24-10) had the league's best record thanks in part to going 14-0 against the East, including two wins over the Shock. Still, the playoff focus in the West stayed with Los Angeles, the preseason favorite.
San Antonio's Becky Hammon, took care of the Sparks by scoring 35 points in the deciding game. She is averaging 20.2 points and 4.3 assists in the playoffs.
"We're not shocked," Hammon said. "I think people that have seen this team on a day-in, day-out basis aren't shocked. We are here and we have a very good team and great players, and that's what we are going to ride into this series."