It may not be the expected matchup, but the Western Conference Finals between the Seattle Storm and Sacramento Monarchs could be even better. The Storm were the only team to sweep its opponent in the first round and will have the luxury of extra rest, which will be invaluable to two-time First-Team All-WNBA point guard Sue Bird, who broke her nose in the opening minutes of Game Two against the Lynx. Bird is not expected to have surgery until midway through the series, but hopes to play with a mask.

Despite struggling during the early part of the season, no team has been as hot as the Sacramento Monarchs down the stretch. Since the Olympics, gold medalist Yolanda Griffith has been playing like a woman possessed. It was during this stretch that they registered their only victory over Seattle. But nothing compares to the emotional lift after beating their long-time nemisis Los Angeles Sparks. After losing to the Sparks in all three of their previous playoff matchups, including a three-game Western Conference Finals thriller in 2003, the Monarchs return to the Conference Finals with the Sparks in their rear-view mirror.

2004 Regular Season: Seattle Storm 3- Sacramento Monarchs 1
Some fast facts about the Storm-Monarchs matchup:

Jackson
Lauren Jackson may be the reigning WNBA MVP and may have led the WNBA in scoring this season with 20.5 points per game, but Sacramento's starting frontline of Griffith, Tangela Smith and DeMya Walker combined to average 42.4 ppg so far in the playoffs.
Smith led the Monarchs in scoring in the first round, averaging 17.7 points per game in the three games in the first round against the Sparks, up from 11.2 ppg in the regular season.
Filling in for Bird in Game two against the Lynx, reserve point guard Tully Bevilaqua filled in admirably, scoring nine points, dishing four assists and grabbing five rebounds in a season-high 27 minutes of action.
While the Monarchs won the latest meeting between these two teams, the Storm were without Jackson, who was home in Australia visiting her grandmother just before she passed away.


Penicheiro

June 5, 2004: Storm 65, Monarchs 63 | Box score

Storm leaders: Lauren Jackson (13 pts., 8 reb.), Sheri Sam (17 pts., 8 asst.)
Monarchs leaders: Yolanda Griffith (20 pts., 11 reb.), Tangela Smith (16 pts., 5 reb.)

July 3, 2004: Storm 75, Monarchs 61 | Box score
Storm leaders: Lauren Jackson (32 pts., 12 reb.), Sue Bird (16 pts., 6 asst.)
Monarchs leaders: Hamchetou Maiga (17 pts., 4 reb.), Rebekkah Brunson (10 pts., 3 reb.)

July 15, 2004: Storm 66, Monarchs 63 | Box score
Storm leaders: Lauren Jackson (18 pts., 6 reb.), Sue Bird (14 pts., 2asst.)
Monarchs leaders: Ruthie Bolton (14 pts., 3 reb.), Kara Lawson (10 pts., 2 asst.)

Sept. 1, 2004: Monarchs 73, Storm 65 | Box score
Storm leaders: Betty Lennox (19 pts., 5 reb.), Sue Bird (18 pts., 3 asst.)
Monarchs leaders: Yolanda Griffith (18 pts., 8 reb.), Tangela Smith (14 pts., 5 reb.)