LOS ANGELES, Aug. 31 (Ticker) -- Despite a furious rally, the fourth-seeded Los Angeles Sparks have a lot of work ahead to turn the tables on the top-seeded Sacramento Monarchs.

The Monarchs used two early runs to open a 16-point lead, got 18 points apiece from Nicole Powell and Yolanda Griffith and overcame a late scare for a 75-72 victory over the Los Angeles Sparks in the first game of their best-of-three Western Conference semifinal.

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Last season, the top-seeded Sparks dropped the conference semifinals to the Monarchs, but Los Angeles built itself too big a hole Wednesday and now must go to Sacramento for Game 2 on Friday. Game 3, if necessary, will be played Sunday in Sacramento as well.

Sacramento opened the game on a 9-0 run and scored 10 straight to take a 23-7 lead with 12:44 left in the first half. Griffith scored 10 points in the opening 20 minutes, when the Monarchs shot a blistering 69 percent (20-of-29) to take a 47-34 lead at the half.

About midway through the second half, Chamique Holdsclaw and the Sparks took over and put together a 33-17 run, capped by a 3-pointer from Holdsclaw that cut the deficit to 73-70 with one minute left.

Kara Lawson committed a turnover five seconds later to give Los Angeles the ball back, but Lisa Leslie missed a drive with 42 seconds remaining.

Powell drew a foul when she attempted a shot from behind the backboard and made both free throws for a five-point edge with 19 seconds remaining.

Los Angeles missed a 3-pointer but Nikki Teasley made a steal, converted a fast-break layup and drew a foul to cut the deficit to 75-72 with two seconds on the clock. Teasley missed the free throw intentionally and Leslie rebounded but missed a follow shot as time expired.

Sacramento didn't miss leading scorer and No. 2 rebounder DeMya Walker. It shot 63 percent (29-of-46) for the game and outrebounded Los Angles, 29-15, helping offset 20 turnovers.

Walker, who played just 22 games, is not expected to play in the series because of a strained knee. She averaged 14.1 points and 5.3 rebounds in 22 games.

Powell, the leading candidate for Most Improved Player, shot 6-of-7, including 2-of-3 from the arc. Griffith was 7-of-10 from the floor with six rebounds and Ticha Penicheiro added nine points and nine assists.

Holdsclaw sparked the second half rally for Los Angeles and finished with 24 points on 11-of-15 shooting. Leslie added 12 points, five rebounds and five assists and Teasley contributed eight points and nine assists for the Sparks, who shot 52 percent (29-of-56).