Sparks 58

(25-9, 15-2 home)

    Coverage: ESPN2/WatchESPN

    9:00 PM ET, August 26, 2006

    1 2 3 4 T
    SAC 23 22 11 1672
    LA 13 8 20 1758

    Top Performers

    Sacramento: Y. Griffith 15 Pts, 5 Reb, 1 Ast

    Los Angeles: T. Moore 16 Pts, 3 Reb, 3 Ast, 3 Stl

    Monarchs back in Finals after extinguishing Sparks

    ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) -- Playing aggressive defense, the Sacramento Monarchs took the Los Angeles Sparks out of their game.

    WNBA Finals schedule
    1Wed., Aug. 30 at Det. 7:30 p.m.
    2 Fri., Sept. 1 at Det. 7:30 p.m.
    3Sun., Sept. 3 at Sac. 4:30 p.m.
    4*Wed., Sept. 6 at Sac. 9 p.m.
    5*Sat., Sept. 9 at Det. 3:30 p.m.
    All games on ESPN2. * -- if necessary.

    Yolanda Griffith scored 15 points to lead the Monarchs into the WNBA finals for the second straight season with a 72-58 victory over the Sparks on Saturday night. The Sparks were held to 37 percent shooting for the game and got outrebounded 40-25.

    "We know we're a great team," Griffith said.

    The Monarchs clinched the Western Conference finals 2-0 and remain undefeated in the playoffs. They will defend their league title against either Connecticut or Detroit, which play a deciding third game in the Eastern Conference on Sunday.

    Kara Lawson had 13 points and 10 rebounds for the Monarchs, whose bench outscored the Sparks' reserves 23-7.

    "We attacked and knocked down some open shots," Lawson said. "We were getting to the free throw line. When we play that well defensively, it carries over to offense. We did a good job of corralling their emotion."

    Yolanda Griffith
    Yolanda Griffith's Monarchs eliminated Lisa Leslie's Sparks for the third straight year. (Danny Moloshok/AP Photo)

    Tamara Moore scored 16 points for the top-seeded Sparks, who trailed the entire game and were eliminated by the Monarchs for the third consecutive year. Los Angeles didn't make it out of the first round in 2004 and 2005.

    Lisa Leslie was limited to 10 points and four rebounds, the former MVP's second straight poor offensive outing. She had seven points and 11 rebounds in Game 1 Thursday.

    "She missed some easy chippies under the basket," Sparks coach Joe Bryant said. "It's like Tiger Woods missing some 5-foot putts.

    Mawadi Mabika added 15 points for the Sparks, forced out of their downtown Los Angeles arena by an "American Idol" concert.

    The Sparks imported their own court -- bearing Leslie's autograph -- and baskets to Arrowhead Pond, home of the NHL's Anaheim Ducks.

    Their fans, clad in yellow T-shirts, showed up, too, although the arena's uppermost level was empty. Sacramento fans holding "Beat LA" signs filled a section.

    "It wasn't fair," Griffith said about the change of venue.

    Sacramento blew the game open in the second quarter, when the Sparks dissolved in a rash of turnovers and missed baskets. They shot 24 percent from the floor and were held to eight points.

    Reserves Scholanda Dorrell and Rebekkah Brunson took turns with 7-0 scoring runs for the Monarchs, who shot 46 percent in the half.

    "They played with nothing to lose," Moore said. "We weren't playing with that win-or-go-home mentality in the first half."

    The Monarchs led 45-21 at the break, with the Sparks tying a season low for points in a half.

    "To get down that far in the first half was a stunner for all of us," Leslie said.

    The Sparks' frustration boiled over, with Temeka Johnson of Los Angeles and Kristin Haynie of Sacramento called for double technicals, and Mabika getting a flagrant foul.

    Then longtime rivals Leslie and Griffith were whistled for double technicals. Griffith fell diving for the ball, got up and bumped Leslie, who pushed back before a referee intervened.

    "It was heat of the moment, a couple of words were said," Griffith said.

    The Sparks staged a brief third-quarter rally, cutting their deficit to 56-41 heading into the final 10 minutes. Moore scored 12 points in the spurt. But the Monarchs scored the first seven points of the fourth -- five by Lawson for a 63-40 lead.

    "We were just outplayed," Leslie said.

    Harassed by Sacramento's double teams, Leslie opened the game shooting 1-for-5 and was replaced by Chamique Holdsclaw, who played for the first time since the opening round. Leslie didn't start the second quarter and returned with just under five minutes to play.

    "They have so many players in the post. Always someone on me, always some contact," Leslie said. "I didn't have the physicality to sustain."

    The Sparks were 3-0 against Sacramento during the regular season.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


    Team Stat Comparison

      Sacramento Los Angeles
    Points 72 58
    FG Made-Attempted 26-63 (.000) 21-56 (.000)
    3P Made-Attempted 5-15 (.333) 5-12 (.417)
    FT Made-Attempted 15-20 (.000) 11-14 (.000)
    Rebounds (Offensive-Total) 17-40 7-25
    Assists 16 17
    Turnovers 7 13
    Steals 8 7
    Blocks 3 7
    Fast Break Points 2 7
    Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 12 (2/0) 20 (2/0)