The Houston Comets, who started the season 7-7, won 12 of their next 14, then lost five of six to end the year, enter the first round looking to regain the momentum that won them four straight titles from 1997-2000. They must first face the Sacramento Monarchs, who have been to the playoffs three times in franchise history, but won only one series. The Monarchs rebounded from their injury-plagued 2002 season to finish 19-15, with point guard Ticha Penicheiro (6.7 apg) leading the WNBA in assists.

2003 Regular Season: Houston Comets 3 - Sacramento Monarchs 1
Some fast facts about the Comets-Monarchs first-round matchup:

Swoopes
Houston and Sacramento met in the first round of the 2000 WNBA Playoffs, with the Comets winning the series 2-0 and going on to claim their fourth consecutive championship.
The Comets' most effective players against Sacramento -- Sheryl Swoopes (18.0 ppg, 5.0 rpg and 4.0 apg) and Tina Thompson (19.0 ppg, 5.3 rpg) -- each appeared in only three of the teams' four meetings.
Yolanda Griffith, who led the Monarchs in both scoring and rebounding in 2003, averaged just 10.0 ppg and 5.8 rpg against Houston. Forward Tangela Smith (14.0 ppg, 5.3 rpg) was Sacramento's most consistent player during the regular season series.

Smith

June 10, 2003: Comets 71, Monarchs 66 | Box score

Comets leaders: Tina Thompson (22 pts., 8 reb.), Dominique Canty (14 pts., 10 reb.)
Monarchs leaders: Tangela Smith (17 pts., 6 reb.), Yolanda Griffith (15 pts., 6 reb.)

July 19, 2003: Comets 74, Monarchs 71 | Box score
Comets leaders: Sheryl Swoopes (29 pts., 8 reb., 7 ast.), Janeth Arcain (14 pts., 5 reb.)
Monarchs leaders: Tangela Smith (15 pts., 5 reb.), DeMya Walker (13 pts., 3 reb.)

Aug. 5, 2003: Comets 74, Monarchs 47 | Box score
Comets leaders: Tina Thompson (18 pts., 3 reb.), Janeth Arcain (16 pts., 4 reb.)
Monarchs leaders: DeMya Walker (9 pts., 4 reb.), Yolanda Griffith (7 pts., 7 reb.)

Aug. 21, 2003: Monarchs 62, Comets 54 | Box score
Comets leaders: Tina Thompson (17 pts., 5 reb.), Sheryl Swoopes (15 pts.)
Monarchs leaders: Tangela Smith (14 pts., 6 reb.), Yolanda Griffith (10 pts., 5 reb.)

(Photo credits: Sheryl Swoopes by Bill Baptist/NBAE/Getty Images; Tangela Smith by Catherine Steenkeste/NBAE/Getty Images)