WNBA FINALS - GAME 3, TUL Wins series 3-0
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Shock take care of Finals rookie Silver Stars to win third WNBA title

YPSILANTI, Mich. -- Winning a gold medal in Beijing, a WNBA championship and the league finals MVP award.

How does it feel, Katie Smith?

"I mean, it's been OK," she said to laughter in the interview room Sunday after the forward led the Detroit Shock to their third WNBA crown in six seasons.

The 76-60 win completed a three-game sweep of the San Antonio Silver Stars and came less than two months after the 34-year-old started for the gold-medal winning U.S. Olympic team.

"It's been fun. It's just been a lot of fun," she said.

Smith, who scored a team-high 18 points, was lifted from the game with time running out as coach Bill Laimbeer emptied his bench to the ear-splitting delight of the crowd.

A few minutes later, she was sprinting back on to the court with her teammates to celebrate yet another championship as confetti rained down.

Detroit became the second team in league history to win a third championship. Only the Houston Comets, who won the first four (1997-2000), have more. Los Angeles (2001, 2002) is the only other team with more than one.

It was an especially sweet win for the Shock, who let the 2007 title slip away, losing Game 5 at The Palace to the Phoenix Mercury.

"Last year was brutal. Last year was discouraging and we lost the championship, and I thought about moving on," Laimbeer said. "At some point, I'll move on, but I don't necessarily think it is right now."

Detroit swept the league's best regular-season team, winning the clincher at Eastern Michigan University's Convocation Center, a venue forced upon them because of a scheduling conflict.

"It was our floor and our rims and our baskets," Laimbeer said. "We understand the situation, and we'll make the most of it. I thought we had a lot of fans in there that had never been a part of this before."

The Shock won their 2003 championship at The Palace and their '06 title at Detroit's Joe Louis Arena, also a substitute venue because of a logistical conflict.

For their part, the Shock players couldn't have cared less.

"We're already trying to figure out where we're going to play next year," said guard Deanna Nolan, the 2006 finals MVP who scored 12 on Sunday.

The game was tight for three quarters with San Antonio leading by six on several occasions. But the veteran Shock were too much to take in the fourth with the title on the line.

The Shock enjoyed a 49-45 lead after three periods, and they quickly extended it to 55-47 on Taj McWilliams-Franklin's one-hander off the glass 3 minutes into the fourth.

A pair of free throws by McWilliams-Franklin less than a minute later gave the Shock their first double-digit lead of the game.

Then Smith sealed it.

She hit a long jumper and then drained a high-arching 3 that made it 62-47 and sent the crowd into a frenzy.

It might not have been The Palace and its seating capacity of more than 22,000, but the cozy Convocation Center and its 9,000-plus seats served as a fine home-court advantage for Detroit -- which won all three postseason games here.

One sign in the stands said simply: "Not in our rental unit."

The Shock had been one of the league's best teams for much of the year, but sputtered a bit after losing top post player Cheryl Ford to a season-ending knee injury in July.

But a trade for the veteran McWilliams-Franklin over the Olympic break was just what Detroit needed.

It won its last five games of the regular season and six of seven after the monthlong Olympic break and carried the momentum into the playoffs.

The fact that her team won without her was not lost on Ford, who wept in the corner of the locker room after Game 3.

"This is really hard, because this is two years in a row where I haven't been able to be out there for my teammates," she said. "I wanted us to win, but I wanted to be out there with them."

Laimbeer made a point of including his injured star during the postgame celebration, handing her the championship trophy after he accepted it.

"That meant a lot, because it made me feel like everyone still thinks I'm part of this, even though I missed so much of the season and all of the playoffs," she said.

The Silver Stars had the league's best regular-season record thanks in part to going 14-0 against the East. They powered their way through the conference playoffs, but were no match for the Shock, losing by eight points twice on their home court before the series shifted to Michigan.

Top scorer Becky Hammon was held in check for much of the series and was a non-factor in Game 3, managing only five points on 1-for-10 shooting. Center Ann Wauters led San Antonio with 19 points, and forward Sophia Young added 15.

"Right now, it is very disappointing, but if we can look back on the whole season, we had a wonderful year," said Wauters, who added nine rebounds. "It is pretty tough to lose the Finals, because when you come that far, you want to win it all."

After a night of celebrating, the Shock have a date with the new mayor of Detroit, Ken Cockrel Jr., who will honor the team at a downtown celebration at midday Monday.