By now, most WNBA fans know about the banging down low - with body and words - between the forwards and centers of the Los Angeles Sparks and New York Liberty, but WNBA Finals 2002 may well be controlled by those talking with their play on the perimeter- the guards.
New York's Teresa Weatherspoon hopes her will and determination will be the difference to finally get the Liberty to the promised land.
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With four trips to the WNBA Finals and nothing to show for it, the Liberty hope wily veteran point guard Teresa Weatherspoon's experience over L.A. 's talented rookie Nikki Teasley will be the edge the Liberty need to grab their first title.
"I have a pretty good idea of what Nikki likes to do, so it's just about putting her in a place where's she not comfortable," said Weatherspoon, "I just need to make sure she doesn't get her feet set and shoot. She's a fantastic shooter."
Both teams are well aware that once the Sparks get out on the break and start running, the result is pretty much a mere formality. Four straight playoff games the Sparks have pushed the ball. Four straight playoff games the Sparks have won.
"We have to get back in transition and pick up the players," said Weatherspoon. "Transition defense is key. Everybody on the Sparks can run."
If one person can take the air out of the ball, and control the Sparks tempo, it just might be Weatherspoon.
"I have a lot of respect for Spoon," said Sparks guard Tamecka Dixon. "She’s a great guard. Without her, there’s no Liberty. She definitely earned my respect. She’s going to bring that emotional intensity that they thrive off of."
But Weatherspoon knows that her experience alone won't be enough.
"Experience is a key, but I can't rely just on experience," sahe said. "I am relying on my will and determination."
While the Liberty hope the experience of Weatherspoon pays dividends, the Sparks' Teasley seems unfazed by being in the WNBA Finals as a rookie.
"We are prepared for anything New York has," said Teasley. "We just have to play within ourselves. This is a veteran team, so me not being here before doesn't concern me."
Teasley has good reason to be confident. She steered the Sparks to the best regular-season record in the WNBA at 25-7, and led the team in assists with 4.4 assists per game.
Dixon plans to match the Liberty's aggressiveness...and then some.
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While Teasley will try to get the Sparks flying on the break, her backcourt mate Tamecka Dixon should provide the scoring. Dixon is shooting a scintillating .537 from the field and averaging 13.8 points per game in the postseason.
Trying to contain Dixon for the Liberty, but also add some scoring punch of her own, is shooting guard Vickie Johnson. Johnson averaged 11.6 points per game in the regular season, but has displayed her offensive power of late, scoring 18 points or more in three of the last four games.
Johnson knows her offense will be needed, but defense is the priority, "We need to be aggressive. We've beaten them before, so if we play together we can win. But coach has emphasized defense, particularly transition defense."
But ultimately, the battle for supremacy among the Liberty and Sparks guards may just come down to the same thing that has the opposing power forwards and centers so fired up: feistiness and grit.
"We have to match the Liberty's aggressiveness and intensity. The Liberty can make you look like punks, especially in this building," declared Dixon.