The San Antonio Silver Stars barely held off the Sacramento Monarchs in the race for home-court advantage in the first round of the WNBA playoffs.
With the teams' first-round series heading to a decisive Game 3, the Silver Stars' regular season success could be the key to their first postseason series win in five years.
The Silver Stars host the Monarchs on Monday night for the right to advance to the Western Conference finals.
Despite closing the season with a three-game losing streak, San Antonio finished with a franchise record-tying 20 wins to match the mark set in 2002, when the team was the Utah Starzz.
With those 20 victories, San Antonio finished one game ahead of Sacramento, which missed an opportunity to grab the second seed by losing four of its last six games - including one in San Antonio on Aug. 9.
The Monarchs, who tied for the best home record in the WNBA at 12-5, may regret their failure to capitalize on the Silver Stars' poor finish now that the series has shifted back to San Antonio. Including the postseason, the home team has won each of the six games between these teams this year.
Becky Hammon scored 20 points to lead the Silver Stars to an 86-61 victory at the AT&T Center on Saturday, forcing the decisive contest. It was the franchise's first playoff win since the team moved from Utah after being eliminated by Los Angeles in the Western Conference finals in 2002.
"We wanted to come out, play hard and not get outhustled like we did in Game 1," said Hammon, who went 4-for-4 from 3-point range. "We wanted to come out, be aggressive and set the tone on our home court."
Sacramento is hoping to avoid its first opening-round elimination since it was swept by eventual champion Houston in 2000. The Monarchs have advanced to the conference finals in each of the last four seasons and have won each of their five first-round matchups in the last six years.
Saturday's loss, though, was the fifth in six road games for the Monarchs, who allowed the Silver Stars to shoot 52.4 percent from the field.
"We got our butts kicked in every aspect of the game," coach Jenny Boucek said. "San Antonio outplayed us. For us it starts and ends with our defense. We go as our defense goes and our defense was off."
Perhaps the key defensive adjustment will be against Hammon, who's averaging 18.0 points in the series.
Sacramento forward Rebekkah Brunson has averaged a team-high 17.5 points per game on 15-for-24 (62.5 percent) shooting. She was 9-for-15 on Saturday, but the Monarchs committed 22 turnovers and shot 37.1 percent.
"We know how (the Monarchs) feel. It's the same way we felt at Sacramento," Hammon said Saturday. "Game 3 will be an all-out war."