By Matthew Brennan, WNBA.com

DETROIT, Aug. 30-- There has been a great amount of attention paid to various aspects of the 2006 Finals matchup, such as the fact that both teams are recent WNBA title winners and feature some of the WNBA’s all-time greats in their starting lineups. The rosters contain illustrious names such as Katie Smith, Yolanda Griffith, Deanna Nolan and Ticha Penicheiro.

However one of the more fascinating storylines is the fact that Sacramento is the league’s best shooting team thus far during the 2006 Playoffs while Detroit’s opponents have the worst field goal percentage in the postseason, hitting on a paltry 36.3 percent of their shots from the field. It seems that from the perspective of shooting the basketball, the 2006 Finals is the proverbial meeting of the irresistible force and the immovable object. Game 1 would prove to be the first chance to resolve this deadlock.

Kara Lawson made a WNBA Finals-record six 3-pointers in Game 1.
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One of the keys to Sacramento’s 4-0 playoff record heading into Game 1 was their 3-point shooting. The Monarchs hit on a sizzling .40.4 percent from beyond the arc, with most of the damage being done by their dynamic outside shooting duo of Nicole Powell and Kara Lawson. They were 17-of-40 heading into the Finals, while Ticha Penichiero was an efficient 4-of-7. It was Penicheiro who arguably hit the biggest 3 for the Monarchs in the late stages of Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals. With Detroit’s imposing front line sure to limit opportunities in the paint, the pressure was on Lawson and Powell to continue their accurate shooting in order for the Monarchs offense to be successful.

"The funny thing about it is that we don't really work on things to get shots for individual players," she said. "We just play, and because we have kind of an equal opportunity system, everyone is used to playing and reading situations, so I think we've really developed with our post players being great passers, we are able to find holes in the defense and when the defense makes a mistake we are able to capitalize."

The Monarchs' long range gunners got off to a great start as Powell nailed her first 3 attempt of the game off a screen. On the next possession, she swished a long two from the top of the key in similar fashion. Lawson drained a fade away 3-pointer just a short time later as the Monarchs jumped out to an early lead in the first quarter, which was then followed by another wide-open trifecta from Powell. The first quarter was punctuated by another long 3-point field goalfrom Lawson as the buzzer sounded that gave the Monarchs a 26-20 lead.

Detroit seemed to counter Sacramento’s strategy of freeing up Powell and Lawson with screen and rolls by stepping out on the shooter, but Sacramento displayed excellent shot selection and did not try to force the issue when Detroit reacted well. In addition, the Monarchs’ inside duo of Yolanda Griffith and DeMya Walker made enough of an impact to force Detroit to think twice about solely focusing on the outside shooters.

Nicole Powell scored 21 points in Game 1.
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By the time halftime rolled around, Sacramento had connected on nearly half of their shots, including 6-of-12 from 3-point land, added up to a 53-38 lead for the defending champion Monarchs. Ten offensive rebounds for the Monarchs didn’t do much for the Shock’s defensive struggles either. It seemed that whenver the Shock were actually able to force a bad shot and get a stop, the ball ended up right back in the hands of someone wearing a purple jersey.

The Monarchs picked right up where they left off in the first half as Powell drained another 3-pointer after floating around a screen set by DeMya Walker. The visiting team eventually extending its lead to as much as 24 points as the Monarchs continued looking to the 3-ball in the second half. Lawson actually knocked down three straight at one point. She finished with a WNBA Finals-record six 3-point shots and led the Monarchs in scoring with 22 points.

Last year's WNBA Most Improved Player, Powell added 21 points, including four 3-pointers. As a team, the Monarchs shot 55.6 percent from the field and converted 10-of-19 from deep.

When asked about whether Sacramento had any specific strategy for getting players open looks from long range, Powell was not so direct.

"Nothing in particular," Powell said. "We just try to execute the best that we can, read the defense and see what they're looking for, and try to make the right plays at the right time."

Looking forward to Game 2, will Sacramento be able to continue their excellent shooting touch that has led them to an undefeated playoff record, or will Detroit make the necessary adjustments that make them the WNBA’s toughest defense? There is no question that after Game 1, the early advantage lies with Sacramento. If the Shock plan on tying the series on Friday night back here at The Palace of Auburn Hills, their first adjustment will definitely involve limiting the open looks for Powell and Lawson.