AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- The Sacramento Monarchs made
wide-open 3-pointers, drove for easy baskets and challenged a lot
of shots at the other end of the court.
The defending champions put together an all-around performance
and hurt the Detroit Shock with a record-breaking start in the WNBA
Kara Lawson scored 22 points, Nicole Powell had 21 and DeMya
Walker added 17 -- each reaching career playoff highs -- to lead
Sacramento past Detroit 95-71 Wednesday night in Game 1, breaking
finals scoring records for a half and a game.
"Everybody is coming out there with a vengeance. I'm not really
surprised with my team," Powell said. "It's really special when
everybody steps up their game."
Lawson made 6-of-8 from 3-point range, surpassing the finals'
record for shots made beyond the arc, and Powell went 4-for-7 from
"I just got good looks, and I was able to find some holes in
the zone," Lawson said. "I thought [Ticha] Penicheiro and
[Kristin] Haynie did a tremendous job running the offense."
Shock guard Katie Smith agreed.
"Obviously, we need to stay a little closer to Lawson and
Powell," she said. "We got a little frustrated and tried to force
some things offensively. And defensively, they picked us apart."
Sacramento and Detroit combined for a finals-record 166 points, beating the 161 points Detroit and Los Angeles scored in 2003.
"I'm tickled to death," Sacramento coach John Whisenant said.
"We got home court back, and that was our goal.
Game 2 is Friday night at The Palace in suburban Detroit before
the best-of-five series shifts to Sacramento.
"We have to win Game 2 or we're in a world of trouble," Shock
coach Bill Laimbeer said.
The Monarchs' high-scoring trio had at least 11 points each to
help Sacramento score a record 53 points in the first half, and
lead by 15. They helped Sacramento close strong and break Detroit's
record of 83 points in the Game 3 clinching victory over the Los
Angeles Sparks in 2003.
The Monarchs led by as much as 21 in the third quarter and
coasted to the victory.
"It was like a never-ending, uphill battle," Smith said.
Cheryl Ford led the Shock with a career playoff-high 25 points,
Smith had 21 and Deanna Nolan added 14. They didn't get much help,
scoring 60 of the Detroit's 71 points. Swin Cash was scoreless in
11 minutes and Ruth Riley scored just two points in 15 minutes.
"Not very pretty," Smith said. "It's a little disappointing
with the effort."
In the first matchup of previous champions, the Monarchs got off
to the same start they did last year by winning the first game on
the road against Connecticut.
"The way we look at it, we have the opportunity to win Game 2
and really put a hold on the series," Lawson said. "I think
having the experience of last year, winning Game 1 and not being
able to come away with Game 2, there is not too much satisfaction
in the locker room right now. We are still really focused."
The Monarchs' balance, which included Yolanda Griffith's 17
points, and depth were too much for the Shock in the opener.
Detroit scored the first basket of the game, and that was its
highlight of the night.
"If you guard people and play defense, you're always going to
have a chance to win," said Whisenant, whose team caused 24
turnovers. "That's what we did."
Sacramento used eight players in the first quarter, taking a
26-20 led with Lawson, Powell and Walker scoring eight apiece.
The Monarchs led 53-38 at halftime -- surpassing Houston's record
of 48 in the second half in a 1998 finals game. Sacramento led
70-52 entering the fourth quarter and didn't have to hold off
Detroit, which seemed to lack energy from the start.
"We didn't compete on the level we needed do and we got
stomped," Laimbeer said. "We won't make any excuses. We have
none. Our performance was poor and I give Sacramento credit."
When Detroit beat the Los Angeles Sparks three years ago for the
title, it drew an WNBA-record 22,076 fans after 17,846 turned out
for its other home game in 2003.
The crowd -- announced as 9,581 -- was much less impressive
Wednesday night as most of the upper deck was covered by black
curtains and each of the lower-level sections had pockets of empty
"I didn't pay any attention to that," Laimbeer said. "But we
didn't give them anything to cheer about."
Monarchs owners Joe and Gavin Maloof sat in the front row,
across from their team's bench, and Shock owner Bill Davidson was
in his usual baseline seat next to Detroit's reserves. ... Other
faces in the crowd included Detroit Pistons players Dale Davis and
Jason Maxiell and the Los Angeles Lakers' Maurice Evans. ... If
Game 5 is necessary, it will be at Joe Louis Arena because the
Shock's home arena is booked for a Mariah Carey concert. ... Lawson
was drafted by Detroit in 2003, but didn't play for the Shock
because she was traded to Sacramento for Kedra Holland-Corn, a