Sacramento 84, San Antonio 67
SAN ANTONIO, Sept. 20, 2008 (AP) -- Sacramento rookie Crystal Kelly wasn't fazed by her new starting role or the pressure of playing in an elimination game.
Kelly did what she usually does, she stayed consistent. Now the Monarchs are a win away from the WNBA's Western Conference Finals.
Kelly scored a career-high 19 points to lead the Monarchs to a 84-67 win over the San Antonio Silver Stars on Saturday night, forcing the first-round playoff series to a decisive game.
Game 3 will decide the series Monday night in San Antonio.
Kelly started in place of Rebekkah Brunson, who sat out her fourth straight game due to an injured right knee. She was 7-of-9 from the field and 5-for-5 from the free throw line.
"I've had a lot of playing time, even coming off the bench, so it wasn't a different mind-set for me,'' Kelly said. "I have the same mind-set I've always had and I'm just trying to be consistent.
"There wasn't any added pressure or anything like that. I think that's what helped us keep our composure in this game. Just play our game and we'd be just fine.''
Kelly was acquired by the Monarchs on May 18 after being cut by the Houston Comets.
Both teams came out strong in the first quarter, trading the lead seven times. Sacramento broke out in the second period.
The Monarchs, who lost 85-78 at home in the series opener on Thursday night, went on a 14-2 run. The spurt ended with 2:03 left in the quarter when Kelly's layup made it 45-33. They made 10 of 16 shots in the second quarter (63 percent) and led 48-39 at halftime.
Sacramento keep the pressure on San Antonio all night, holding a double-digit lead throughout the second half. The Monarchs went up by as many as 21 points, leading 84-63 with 1:23 remaining in the game.
The defensive pressure got to the Silver Stars, who committed 22 turnovers that were converted into 20 points by Sacramento.
"I thought we played how we needed to play, free and easy and playing off our defense,'' Monarchs coach Jenny Boucek said. "When we play aggressive and relentless, we are fully into our identity and how we need to play.''
San Antonio, which made 60 percent of its shots in Game 1, couldn't get its offense going. The Silver Stars were 25-of-58 from the field (43 percent) on Saturday.
"I thought they came out and were really physical with us, especially on the basketball,'' Silver Stars coach Dan Hughes said. "We didn't make good decisions at the point of the ball. They are physical with you and create a lot of contact and you have to deal with it.''
Top-seeded San Antonio ousted Sacramento last year in a three-game series that was decided by Vickie Johnson's last-second layup.
The Silver Stars, who went 15-2 at home in the regular season, hadn't lost on their floor since falling to Minnesota on July 19. San Antonio was a league-best 24-10 overall.
"I would like to say we didn't, but obviously we did,'' Hammon said of being overconfident at home. "I think (Sacramento coach) Jenny had more energy than our whole team. We just didn't have any energy and that's unacceptable. We have to fix ourselves before we start looking at anybody else.''
The winner of this series will face Los Angeles or Seattle in the Western Conference finals. Los Angeles leads 1-0 in the series that resumes Sunday at Seattle.