Smith, 32, knows that a chance to play for a championship can't be taken for
granted. After winning two titles with the Columbus Quest of the now defunct
ABL, she never got beyond the first round of the WNBA playoffs in 61/2 years
with the Minnesota Lynx. "When you have the tools to get to the
Finals," says Smith, "you don't want to waste them.
The tools in
Detroit's case include hyperathletic shooting guard Deanna Nolan, a superb
stop-and-pop shooter, and the big, mobile front line of Ruth Riley, Swin Cash
and Cheryl Ford, whose league-leading 11.3 boards a game were a big reason the
Shock outrebounded opponents by six per game. Says Sacramento coach John
Whisenant, whose Monarchs will face the Shock in the best-of-five Finals that
tip off on Wednesday in Michigan, " Detroit is a big, tough, power team
that'll knock your head off inside."
Not that the
Monarchs are short on physicality and grit. "We are built for the playoffs
because we defend," says forward Kara Lawson. They have also shot well from
the perimeter (.404 on three-pointers in the playoffs), taken care of the ball
(11.5 turnovers per game) and rebounded (+8.5 margin). "We have to play
sound and smart against Sacramento," says Smith, who will be the only
starter on the floor without a WNBA championship ring. So playing hungry, in
her case, is a given.