Gm 1: at Hou, Thurs., 9/8, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN
Gm 2: at Sac., Sat., 9/10, 5:30 p.m. ET. ESPN2
Gm 3*: at Sac., Sun., 9/11, 3 p.m. ET. ESPN2
The Sacramento Monarchs have not won a Conference Finals series in their previous three attempts. On the other hand, the Houston Comets have won all four series with a trip to the Finals on the line. But that is why the past is the past. Perhaps fueled by another loss in the Western Conference Finals last year, the Sacramento Monarchs got out to an early lead in the Western Conference standings in 2005 and never looked back. They went on to win their first-ever regular season conference crown. Led once again by Yolanda Griffith and point guard Ticha Penicheiro, the all-time leading assist-scoring duo in league history, the Monarchs challenged for the best overall record in the league until the last weekend of the season. This is a team that stresses team defense and finished with a league-low 61.8 points allowed. An injury to All-Star forward DeMya Walker posed serious questions about the Monarchs durability in the Playoffs, but guard Kara Lawson fought through an injury of her own in Round One .

The Houston Comets have been one of the best teams in the West all season long. After missing the playoffs last season, Sheryl Swoopes returned to her MVP form and led the league in scoring. Her triple-dpuble in Game 3 against the Storm in the opening round was the first in playoffs history and showed why she is still one of the best players in the world. Center Michelle Snow was an All-Star for the first time and the frontcourt was solidified with the return of Tina Thompson from maternity leave midway through the season. Add in Olympian Dawn Staley, who was acquired just before the trading deadline, and the Comets have four 2004 Olympians in their starting lineup.

2005 Regular Season: Sacramento Monarchs 2, Houston Comets 1
Some fast facts about the Monarchs-Comets first-round matchup:


Monarchs guard Ticha Penicheiro became the all-time WNBA career assist leader during the 2004 season, eclipsing the mark held previously held by Teresa Weatherspoon, who also happens to be the all-time career assist leader in the playoffs..
DeMya Walker was the team's leading scorer with 14.1 ppg and second-leading rebounder with 5.3 rpg, but that came in only 22 games this season.
Talk about a pair of fast-improving sophs, Nicole Powell is a leading candidate for Most Improved Player after being traded to the Monarchs in the offseason, finishing with 11 points per game. Meanwhile, Brunson started in 16 games and averaged nearly 8 ppg and 5.6 rpg.

After taking the 2004 season off to train with her national team in Brazil, guard Janeth Arcain returned to Houston to help lead the Comets back to the playoffs. She finished with more than 10 ppg and started in all 34 of the Comets games. Except for last season, Arcain has started in every game of the Comets since 1999.
In ten games with the Comets after being traded from the Sting, point guard Dawn Staley averaged 3.0 ppg and 2.6 apg. Both were well below her season and career averages.

Tina Thompson started in all 15 games after her return, and while she averaged slightly less than 10 points per game, well below last season's 20.0 ppg, she did score 17 points twice, 18 points twice and 20 points once in her brief season.


Monday, June 13: Sacramento 74, Houston 68 | Box score

Monarchs leaders: Nicole Powell (18 pts., 3 ast.), Yolanda Griffith (17 pts., 10 reb., 5 ast.)
Comets leaders: Sheryl Swoopes (20 pts., 4 ast.), Michelle Snow (9 pts., 4 reb.)

Tuesday, July 19: Houston 58, Sacramento 54 | Box score
Monarchs leaders: DeMya Walker (21 pts., 8 ast.), Yolanda Griffith (6 pts., 10 reb.)
Comets leaders: Sheryl Swoopes (22 pts., 2 ast.), Janeth Arcain (10 pts., 5 reb.)
NBA TV highlights: Play

Sunday, August 7: Sacramento 55, Houston 45 | Box score
Monarchs leaders: Ticha Penicheiro (9 pts., 4 ast.), Yolanda Griffith (10 pts., 6 reb.)
Comets leaders: Sheryl Swoopes (10 pts., 3 ast.), Janeth Arcain (10 pts., 7 reb.)
NBA TV highlights: Play