SACRAMENTO, August 24, 2007 (AP) -- Nicole Powell scored 22 points, Rebekkah Brunson had 17 and the Sacramento Monarchs played sterling defense in an 86-65 victory over the San Antonio Silver Stars on Thursday night in Game 1 of a first-round playoff series.
Kara Lawson added 16 points and hit three 3-pointers for the Monarchs, who opened defense of their back-to-back Western Conference championships with their usual defensive effort and a surprising second-half offensive surge.
Third-seeded Sacramento made 28 free throws and piled up a 41-22 rebounding edge while rolling past Becky Hammon and the second-seeded Silver Stars, who weren't sharp in their first playoff game since moving to Texas five seasons ago.
Game 2 in the best-of-three series is in San Antonio on Saturday.
Sacramento took control in a one-sided third quarter, holding San Antonio scoreless for nearly five minutes during a 13-2 run. Powell, who also had eight rebounds, and Brunson led the offensive charge with seven points apiece in the third, and San Antonio couldn't cut Sacramento's lead to single digits in the fourth.
Sophia Young scored 20 points for the Silver Stars, who got off to a rough start in the franchise's first playoff appearance since the erstwhile Utah Starzz moved to San Antonio after the 2002 season.
Hammon, the WNBA's fifth-leading scorer, had 16 points on 6-of-16 shooting for the Silver Stars, who have lost four straight dating back to the regular season. Hammon was visibly frustrated as she struggled to escape the Monarchs' defense, managing just five points in the first half.
The clubs had remarkably similar regular seasons, splitting their four-game season series and finishing one game apart in the conference standings. Both clubs were known for their sturdy defense. San Antonio has a one-two scoring punch lacked by the Monarchs, who have years of playoff experience over the newcomers.
Yolanda Griffith had 10 points and nine rebounds for Sacramento and Ticha Penicheiro added 10 points and seven assists.
Sacramento blew its 13-point first-half lead, but went to halftime up 38-34. San Antonio opened the second half with seven straight missed shots and six turnovers before Young scored their first basket with 5:03 left in the quarter.