Silver Stars-Monarchs Preview

The San Antonio Silver Stars and Sacramento Monarchs should be pretty familiar with each other when their postseason series begins Thursday night.

One year after meeting in the playoffs and five days after facing off in the last weekend of the regular season, top-seeded San Antonio visits No. 4 seed Sacramento in the opener of a best-of-three first-round Western Conference series.

The Silver Stars ended the Monarchs' two-year run as conference champions last season, losing Game 1 in the first round in Sacramento before winning the next two at home to reach the West finals for the first time since relocating from Utah prior to the 2003 season.

That success carried over to this season, as San Antonio finished a WNBA-best 24-10. The Silver Stars took two of three meetings with Sacramento in 2008, including a 77-69 home victory Saturday to end the regular season on a five-game winning streak.

San Antonio, though, lost 73-64 on May 17 in its only visit to Sacramento this year. Including playoffs, the Silver Stars have dropped five straight at Arco Arena since a 74-71 win June 2, 2006.

"Sacramento is a great team at home," said forward Sophia Young, second on San Antonio in scoring with a career-high 17.5 points per game. "They rebound well, they execute well, and they're a great defensive team, so it's going to be a challenge when we go out there."

The Monarchs went 13-4 at home, winning their last eight there to help them reach the postseason for the sixth consecutive year - the longest such streak in the West. They beat Connecticut for their only league championship in 2005 before falling to Detroit in the WNBA finals the following season.

"It's about coming out and winning seven games, and doing the best you can," forward DeMya Walker told the Monarchs' official Web site. "And in that respect, everybody takes their game to another level. I think our veteran leadership is extremely important because you have to warm up differently, you have to mentally prepare differently, you have to tweak what you do going into playoff games."

Sacramento's veterans led the way this season, with Nicole Powell, Kara Lawson, Rebekkah Brunson and Ticha Penicheiro combining to average 45.3 of the team's 74.9 points per game.

Penicheiro, the WNBA's all-time leader in assists, finished second in the league this year with 5.2 per game.

"You know she's going to keep you organized," Monarchs guard Scholanda Robinson said. "She's going to keep your head level, whether it's coming to the sideline to say, 'Look, calm down, we're alright,' or something else. All that experience that she has, you can't replace it with anything."

San Antonio also has experience at the point guard position in Becky Hammon, who averaged team highs of 17.6 points and 4.9 assists this season. Hammon has appeared in 39 playoff games for New York and the Silver Stars.

The series shifts to San Antonio for Game 2 on Saturday and Game 3, if necessary, on Monday. The Silver Stars finished 15-2 at home this season.

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