WNBA Finals Game Five

Congratulations to the Shock...
Posted: By Matt Wurst, September 9, 2006 6:03 p.m. ET

The Shock had their second consecutive dominant half of the series and closed out the Monarchs with a sweet blend of timely shooting, athleticism, increased intensity and Deanna Nolan. While Detroit was inconsistent and lacked their full effort at times during this series, there is no denying that they tightened the screws when they had to and ran over the Monarchs. Maybe they were toying with Sacramento.

The rap against Deanna Nolan is that she does not always have the jets on, but when she does, look out. Well, the jets were misfiring in the first half, but kicked into turbo in that third quarter. Is this what she was waiting for? Did it take two elimination games to bring out the fire in this gifted, seemingly-aloof All-Star? Experts pick the Shock to win it all every year because of the talent on their roster, yet they had under-performed the past two seasons for myriad reasons.

Again, in the end, the Shock may just have been too good for the Monarchs all along. At their best, they have proven that they are the best team in the WNBA. We extend our most heart-felt congratulations to the Shock. Personally, it is great to see Katie Smith standing on the podium. As one of the most-decorated players ever, this just feels right, doesn't it? Swin Cash showed the leadership tonight that may have been lacking at times this series, but she came through when it counted. And Ruth Riley may have struggled this postseason, but redemption is sweet (and spelled R-U-T-H).

In Other News... Thanks again to everyone who made our time in Detroit and Sacramento such a blast... the WNBA.com staff... Matt Brennan, Andrew Pearson, John Schuhmann, Brad Friedman and Mike Slane. Thanks to the teams and their staffs for all of their help and support, specifically John Maxwell, Rebecca Brutlag, Jackie Begin and Pam Kay. A big shout out to the IT guys who kept us up and running, the league P.R., basketball ops and broadcasting personnel. Congratulations to Becky Hammon and Teresa Weatherspoon, who made their WNBA broadcasting debuts this series. I did not see any of the action, but I heard Becky is awesome, a natural TV talent.

So much goes into putting on an event of this magnitude... two cities, three arenas, five practice locations, six airplanes... it adds up. And, of course, thanks to our loved ones for putting up with us being away for so long. As for the Blog, well this is a labor of love and I'm glad to have had the opportunity to pilot you back-and-forth across the United States. One last trip home now...

Warm up the DVR, munchkin doodle. I'm coming home to sleep in my own bed!!

Your 2006 WNBA Champions...
Posted: By Matt Wurst, September 9, 2006 6:02 p.m. ET

...The Detroit Shock!

Or Maybe...
Posted: By Matt Wurst, September 9, 2006 5:59 p.m. ET

Another Katie Smith 3 and this one is all but over. And the dancing has begun... DEEEEEEE-TROIT BAS-KET-BALL!

Or Maybe Not
Posted: By Matt Wurst, September 9, 2006 5:50 p.m. ET

Kara Lawson has chipped away at the lead, which is back to just seven points with under three minutes to go.

Nearing The End
Posted: By Matt Wurst, September 9, 2006 5:46 p.m. ET

The Shock show no signs of letting up as the lead grows to 12 with just over four minutes to go. Is this the last stand for the defending champion Monarchs? We could be on the verge of a new champion, the handing-over of the crown...

Posted: By Matt Wurst, September 9, 2006 5:38 p.m. ET

Katie Smith's 3... again... and the Shock have a double-digit lead.

Stop Reading This Blog!
Posted: By Matt Wurst, September 9, 2006 5:37 p.m. ET

It's a seven-point game with seven minutes to go! What in the name are you doing sitting at your computer at this point? Get to a television and start watching! I'm too excited to type at this point...

Can You Feeeeeel It?
Posted: By Matt Wurst, September 9, 2006 5:32 p.m. ET

I can. The Shock have the lead with eight minutes to go, but the Monarchs are not going away just yet. Every seat in the arena is filled and everyone is screaming.

Vote For M.V.P.
Posted: By Matt Wurst, September 9, 2006 5:15 p.m. ET

What a third quarter for the Shock who erased an eight-point deficit at the half and built up a five-point lead.

In Other News... The voting window is now open to pick the 2006 WNBA Finals Most Valuable Player.

Nolan is Rollin'
Posted: By Matt Wurst, September 9, 2006 5:15 p.m. ET

Deanna Nolan already has eight points in this quarter and we're just getting to the 5-minute mark. Make that ten points now. 21 points for Tweety in the game as the Shock have built up a seven point lead. Shades of Game 4... That's an 18-3 run in this quarter.

As the trusty and affable Rob Peterson noted... Deanna is looking like Betty Lennox of 2004 Finals fame.

Who Let The Shock Out?!?
Posted: By Matt Wurst, September 9, 2006 5:10 p.m. ET

And the Shock take the lead... ten straight points for Detroit to start the third quarter. Looks like the halftime adjustments worked wonders.

Right Back At 'Ya
Posted: By Matt Wurst, September 9, 2006 5:06 p.m. ET

Just like that, we've got a close one again. The Monarchs have missed their first three shots and the Shock have come back down each time and scored. Deanna Nolan has four points and Cheryl Ford has also gotten into the act as the Shock have cut the lead down to just two points in just 94 seconds.

Catch Your Breath
Posted: By Matt Wurst, September 9, 2006 4:50 p.m. ET

Halftime at the Joe... and the visiting Monarchs are just one half away from capturing their second straight title. Sacramento leads, 44-36. Yolanda Griffith, DeMya Walker and Hamchetou Maiga-Ba each have eight points for the Monarchs, who could not be denied on the block. Sacramento is outscoring Detroit 18-10 in the paint. Maiga-Ba has been huge for Sacramento with Powell on the bench in foul trouble.

Plenette Pierson was sharp off the bench for Detroit, but the Shock are faced with one or more defenders in their face on every shot. Deanna Nolan did not shoot the ball well that half, but keeps on trying. We saw 25 free throw attempts in that half, a pace which could favor the Monarchs.

20 minutes to go and the Shock need to find a way to score in the second half or they could be in some serious trouble...

Two For Tweety
Posted: By Matt Wurst, September 9, 2006 4:39 p.m. ET

That's two huge shots, one of them a 3-pointer, for Deanna Nolan to cut the Shock lead to four points. Yet, she is 4-for-12 from the floor... What's warmer than cold? Lukewarm.

Shock Playing Ugly, But Still In It
Posted: By Matt Wurst, September 9, 2006 4:34 p.m. ET

Depsite committing more turnovers and giving up points in the paint, the Shock are hanging around, down six points midway through the quarter. Plenette Pierson continues to play well despite the shooting woes of her team. Ticha Penicheiro is being aggressive, Kara Lawson just nailed the first 3-pointer of the game and the Monarchs are just taking better, higher-percentage shots.

Sac-ing It To 'Em
Posted: By Matt Wurst, September 9, 2006 4:22 p.m. ET

The Monarchs have scored the first three buckets of the second quarter, doing so with the frontcourt tandem of Walker and Brunson. Down by seven points, Shock coach Bill Laimbeer wants to talk it over...

A Well-Balanced Diet
Posted: By Matt Wurst, September 9, 2006 4:11 p.m. ET

10 minutes down... 30 to go. 12 different players have scored, yet no one has more than four points. Nicole Powell already has three fouls and no points in six minutes. Ruth Riley played just four minutes and missed her only shot. Deanna Nolan is 1-for-5 from the field, but Katie Smith has only taken two shots. Time for the stars to shine...

Hi, Coach
Posted: By Matt Wurst, September 9, 2006 4:11 p.m. ET

With three of his former players on the Detroit Shock, University of Georgia women's basketball coach Andy Landers is in the crowd. Landers coached Deanna Nolan, Kara Braxton and Kedra Holland-Corn.

Give and Take
Posted: By Matt Wurst, September 9, 2006 4:03 p.m. ET

The Shock are up by just two points, but the pace has slowed since those frenetic early minutes. Swin Cash was involved and active early and Cheryl Ford is up to her old tricks under the boards. Plenette Pierson has given Detroit good minutes after Ruth Riley came out of the game. The Shock have also been strong defensively, picking up where they left off last game. With just over two minutes to go in the first quarter, the Monarchs are just 4-for-14 from the floor and have missed their only 3-point attempt. Ford is 2-for-2 from the field and already has four rebounds.

Off and Running
Posted: By Matt Wurst, September 9, 2006 3:54 p.m. ET

Cheryl Ford and Yolanda Griffith, who posed for that shot fighting over the trophy prior to Game 1, seem to really want it tonight. They each have four points in the early going in a fast-paced, high-energy start. A good sign of things to come... We've already had four lead changes just three minutes into the game.

Final Tip
Posted: By Matt Wurst, September 9, 2006 3:46 p.m. ET

Game 5. Detroit and Sacramento. Joe Louis Arena. Thunderstorms outside. Thundersticks inside. It's getting loud as we are ready to tip it off and get this baby underway... Time to start playing and stop talking (though we'll never stop Blogging).

Speaking of weather... Ever wonder what happened to Lamar from Revenge of the Nerds like I did? He's a weatherman in central Florida.

Your officials for tonight's games are a trio of veterans. In fact, Bob Trammell, Lisa Mattingly and Tina Napier have 29 years of WNBA officiating experience between them.

In Other News... A special Blog hello to Ruth Riley's sister. Rachel Cattin, a Black Hawk pilot in the Army, was deployed to Iraq on Tuesday. Thanks for all that you do, Rachel, and good luck over there!

"Mama Called Him Clay..."
Posted: By Matt Wurst, September 9, 2006 3:06 p.m. ET

...I'll call him Clay."

"He whooped Joe Louis'..."

OK, now I'll leave, too. But I'll be back for game time.... 31 minutes from now...

Mama Said ...
Posted: By Rob Peterson, September 9, 2006 3:04p.m. ET

Apropos of nothing (or maybe propos), but they're playing LL Cool J's "Mama Said Knock You Out" here at Joe Louis Arena.

Get it?

OK, I'll leave now.

History vs. Power of the Pen
Posted: By Matt Wurst, September 9, 2006 2:23 p.m. ET

The Detroit Shock have history in their favor as every previous championship was won on the home court of the victorious team. However, they might be up against an even stronger factor...

The good-luck pen.

Monarchs Manager of Media Relations Rebecca Brutlag, who travels with the team, has been using the same pen since the beginning of the 2005 season. She took the pen from Le Meridien, a hotel in Minnesota, before the third game of last season in Minnesota. After using it all year en route to a championship, she put it away and saved it for this season. She contrinues to use the writing instrument for every game and it has not yet run out of ink. It even started falling apart and she had to tape it together. With so much on the line, who could blame her?

The pen may be mightier than the sword, but it cannot knock down jump shots, box out or hit late free throws. Yet, it is this team mentality that everyone does their part on the Monarchs to make sure the team is successful.

Pre-game Snapshots
Posted: By Matt Wurst, September 9, 2006 2:12 p.m. ET

The Shock lockerroom about 20 minutes ago... ESPN's Doris Burke doing some babysitting on the side for DeMya Walker's daughter, Zahara.

Joe vs. Joe
Posted: By Rob Peterson, September 9, 2006 1:30 p.m. ET

Greetings from downtown Detroit.

You ask: Downtown Detroit? Isn't the Palace of Auburn...

Shush! Yes, yes. We know, we know. Mariah Carey has staked her claim on the Palace tonight. (She's SUCH a diva!) So, we're in downtown Detroit at the Joe Louis Arena, which is no stranger to championship events.

The Joe (We can call it The Joe, right?) houses the Detroit Red Wings, who have won Lord Stanley's Cup thrice (10 overall) -- 1997, 1998, 2002 -- while tenants of this building and we're even able to lift the cup in front of the home fans in '97 and aught-two. A championship celebration would not be unknown to these environs.

And what of them? Well, according to Munsey & Suppes' ballparks.com, The Joe was built in 1979 and holds 19,730 when the cagers take the court.

(An aside: Shock coach Bill Laimbeer has been hanging out courtside for the past hour. He seems loose. I don't know what that means, but I thought I'd tell you...)

If you think that's impressive, do you know about Joe Louis' fist? (I know, you're thinking to yourself, 'He has a fist, too?') Yes, Joe Louis, one of the greatest heavyweights of all time plied his puglistic trade here in Motown. To honor him (besides naming the joint after him), Sports Illustrated and sculptor Robert Graham donated a 24-foot bronze fist to the city of Detroit. The likeness of Louis' right hand sits on an island two blocks away from The Joe.

Some people hate it. I love it. It's better and more abstract than your typical sports statue. Joe Louis was defined by that fist. It's difficult to think of a better monument to a boxer.

Of course, we'd be remiss if we didn't provide you with a tale of the tape between The Joe and The Fist:

The Joe: 1979
The Fist: 1984

The Joe: $57 million
The Fist: $350,000

The Joe: 19,750
The Fist: 0

Championships won
The Joe: Three, Detroit Red Wings -- 1997, 1998, 2002 (and 10 Cups overall)
The Fist: One, 1937-1948, champ for 11 years

Confetti Is In The Building
Posted: By Matt Wurst, September 9, 2006 1:18 p.m. ET

It's probably something you take for granted and don't think about until it happens. But all of that confetti needs to be hauled out and set up and be ready to go at the buzzer. Of course, the 1,000-plus bags of confetti will not be shot out into the air unless the Detroit Shock are championshipized. If that's a word. Needless to say to say, there will be no confetti or grand celebration should the Monarchs make history and win on the road.

Game Day
Posted: By Matt Wurst, September 9, 2006 8:19 a.m. ET

At this point, just about everything has been said about the series, the game, the players, the possible scenarios, etc. It's time to just go out there and play. I've had these little feelings in my gut before each day and been right nearly every time. This morning I can honestly say I have no idea what to expect tonight. The Joe will be loud. It will be full. And it will be awesome.

Game 5 tips off at 3:30 p.m. ET on ESPN2. Forget going outside, forget college football, forget about car racing, forget about baseball, forget about everything else. Only a few times a year do you get to see a champion crowned. Even rarer is the final game. Well today is the day. We're just over seven hours away...

More With Katie Smith
Posted: By Matt Wurst, September 8, 2006 7:31 p.m. ET

Talking about her experience if the Finals, Katie told me "This has been fun. It's been hectic. It's been great basketball. It has been a little draining, but it has been a blast. This is where everyone wants to be. You play all season to be in the WNBA Finals and this is Game 5. In one game, we are either champs or not. This series has had its ups and downs. There are more demands on us than there are in the regular season, but it's been easy. At the end of the day, we just go out there and play."

She is also very excited to meet up with her World Championship teammates, who left today for Brazil.

"It's time to go win another thing. We have a tough game tomorrow, but then we head out to represent our country, Cheryl and myself. We'll be ready to get back on the floor."

World Championship play begins Tuesday.

Say What?
Posted: By Matt Wurst, September 8, 2006 7:24 p.m. ET

Hear what Yolanda Griffith had to say earlier today.

In Other News... Check out our Finals fan polls. As NBA TV's Rick Kamla would say, "They're totally awesome."

Congratulations, Coach,
Posted: By Matt Wurst, September 8, 2006 7:01 p.m. ET

Congratulations to UConn coach and WNBA analyst Geno Auriemma, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame today in Springfield, MA. Oh, how we wish we could be there to honor him, Dominique Wilkins, Sandro Gamba, Joe Dumars, Dave Gavitt and Charles Barkley .

Hear what Coach had to say.

He also spoke to NBA.com's John Hareas, who IS there...

"There's not going to be any speech. There's about four or five people I need to thank. Forty of my players are going to be there and if you start to get into names .... Charles and I are negotiating our minutes. He wants a couple of mine. I'm holding them ransom. There aren't going to be any long speeches tonight by me. I'm usually not shy with a lot of words but tonight is going to be hard for me to use up a lot of words."

Guest Blogger Alert
Posted: By Samantha Tager, WNBA P.R., September 8, 2006 4:13 p.m. ET

"Although I would have loved to be back in New York right now, Detroit was wonderful to me last night. After what seemed like forever on a plane (luckily I wasn't stuck next to a crying baby for 5 hours that needed his diaper changed like I did on the way to Sac), I enjoyed a mouth-watering, body-warming, delightful choclate cake that melts in the middle from Shula's steakhouse.

Today I had a wonderful trip on the Detroit trolly. Be careful when looking out the window because the water below makes it scary if you tip over (although I would have to say the water looks especially blue/green), but I'd rather not swim with the fishies. My field trip to the Renissance to get food brought smiles to my co-workers' faces today when I brought back wonderful mckdy's (EXTRA BBQ sauce) and some subway. A special shoutout to Katie Smith who graced our office with her presence and used my computer. And one last special shoutout to Matt Wurst for letting me be a special guest on the blog. That's all!"

Momentum Shmomentum
Posted: By Matt Wurst, September 8, 2006 2:24 p.m. ET

Neither team has been able to win back-to-back games in this series, so momentum apparently does not mean that much. At least that's what the Sacramento Monarchs are hoping.

"To this point, it has been non-existent," Kara Lawson said. "Let's hope it stays that way. When you get to this level and have two teams that are talented and mentally tough, and both of these teams are resilient, you might lose a game, but you never feel defeated. You never think about momentum. Tough teams can fight through it."

Her backcourt partner agrees.

"We've been flipflopping, and every game has been so lopsided," Ticha Penicheiro said. "The way teams have won in this series, no one could have expected this. But this means we should win tomorrow. We have to. It's Game 5! "

In Other News... Traveling stinks. We covered that yesterday. But imagine trying to get ready for Game 5 and facing major delays. The Monarchs team bus left at 7:15 a.m. from ARCO Arena for a flight scheduled to leave at 8:50. Of course, they sat on the plane for nearly two hours before being told that there were mechanical problems. Luckily, the Monarchs got to get off the plane first, but it was already 10:30. They then had to figure out what to do next. They decided to walk to next terminal, change airlines and fly through Phoenix. Wouldn't you know it, but that flight was delayed as well. The team did not arrive and check in to their hotel until nearly 11 p.m. ET. Oh, and their bags didn't make it on time either.

Hugs All Around
Posted: By Matt Wurst, September 8, 2006 1:58 p.m. ET

With so much of the spotlight on Katie Smith going for her first title, I wanted to know who she will hug when the buzzer sounds and the Shock win.

"Obviously the teammates, my family will be here, I'll give Bill a little love for getting me here and Kristen Bernert had a hand in it when she worked here. There are some folks that definitely deserve some hugs for all of the good things they did for me."

What about me? Do I get a hug?

"Maybe. If you're lucky."

"Joe Louis Was 137 Years Old!"
Posted: By Matt Wurst, September 8, 2006 1:22 p.m. ET

I'm no mathematician, but the deciding factors in Game 5 will be 100% mental and 100% physical. The Detroit Shock have had their strong moments as well as their off nights, So after their final practice, their psychology was the big question.

"We haven't had a chance to win this series yet," Coach Bill Laimbeer said. "This is our first opportunity to do it. I think we are pretty excited about that. We realize how hard we have to play. The last game was a good experience for us. We're going to have 19,000 people in this joint rooting for us. That should push us to a level that we can compete at."

Yes, but will they come out strong or will they be overconfident?

"We know this is one-and-done now," Swin Cash said. "This is like the NCAA Tournament where you have one shot at it. I know that feeling. So we know what can happen if we don't bring our A-game. The energy is high and we're trying to ride off of the positives from last game."

"We really have to be aggressive, Cash said. "People have to step up their energy levels from the first second of the game. Our fans will give us the boost because they will be excited."

In Other News... Ruth Riley wanted to play some dodgeball after practice. I also have no idea how to work a tape recorder after all this time. During my time with Swin, I was playing back my Katie Smith interview instead of recording hers. Thanks, Swin, for saying everything all over again. Yup, I'm the idiot.

Brrrrrr, It's Cold In Here
Posted: By Matt Wurst, September 8, 2006 12:43 p.m. ET

The Detroit Shock are just about to finish up their practice here at Joe Louis Arena. We are actually sitting on the refrigerated slab of concrete on which the ice typically sits for all Detroit Red Wings games, so needless to say, it's a bit chilly. I keep blowing into my hands and rubbing them together like a relief pitcher called in late to a playoff baseball game. All around us, stat technicians are laying cables and setting up monitors for the game tomorrow.

Detroit is working on some offensive sets right now, mostly working on ways to maneuver through screens and picks to get easier shots inside. There is no trace of the lethargy or fatigue you might expect after a cross-country trip (though it is quite visible in the faces and eyes of many staff here watching from the sidelines. The Shock did not get in until nearly 8 p.m. ET last night.

Keep Watching
Posted: By Matt Wurst, September 8, 2006 12:20 p.m. ET

Game 4 was the second highest rated WNBA game in ESPN2 history, only surpassed by the decisive Game 3 of the 2003 WNBA Finals (Sparks / Shock). which earned a 0.81 rating.

Through four games, the WNBA Finals up +8% versus last season's WNBA Finals on ESPN2.

Click and Roll: One Day To Go Edition
Posted: By Mike Slane, September 8, 2006 10:22 a.m. ET

The unpredictable series is back in Detroit and what better way to wrap up the WNBA's 10th anniversary season than a decisive Game Five? It just makes sense, doesn't it? Tipoff is set for tomorrow at 3:30 p.m. ET on ESPN 2.

Many believe that the Shock have the momentum coming into the final game of the series, but Monarchs center Yolanda Griffith sure doesn't. "We're still going to get that championship," she yelled following a 72-52 Game Four defeat.

In order for Sacramento to be successful in completing their quest for back-to-back championships, they need a big game from Nicole Powell. Powell led the Monarchs with 13 points in the first half of Game Four, but missed her only second half shot and committed three second half turnovers.

Detroit's bench must make the most of their limited minutes in Game Five as they did in Game Four. The Shock reserves outscored the Monarchs bench, 21-11, on Wednesday. They must also carry over the aggressive play and unyielding defense that we witnessed in Game Four and throughout the regular season.

Bill Laimbeer has complained about many things during the 2006 WNBA Finals, including ESPN and the officiating. But one thing the Shock coach seems content about is the venue change. Due to a scheduled Mariah Carey concert at The Palace, Game Five will be played at Joe Louis Arena. "We're going to pack that place," Laimbeer said following Game Four. "We're going to have a ton of people in the upper rafters screaming, hollering, yelling for Detroit Shock to win the basketball game."

In Other News... Geno Auriemma, who led University of Connecticut women's teams to five national championships and has had a great impact on professional women's basketball as well, will be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame tonight.

Meeting Joe
Posted: By Matt Wurst, September 8, 2006 8:15 a.m. ET

The final official practices of the 2006 WNBA Finals will take place later today at Joe Louis Arena. It will be the first look at the building for both teams. Detroit gets things going at 11 a.m. ET, followed by the Monarchs at 2 p.m. We will be over there shortly to bring you the scoop on how both teams look, acted and responded to media questions.

Blogging From 16-Mile, Redux
Posted: By Matt Wurst, September 7, 2006 12:15 p.m. ET

Finally back on the east coast... We actually beat both teams back to Detroit as Thursday is a travel day. There are no official practices, though I would not be shocked if one or both teams met later this evening once they arrive and get settled, perhaps to look at film or even do a quick runthrough.

You have to think John Whisenant had trouble sleeping last night, thinking of new ways to get his team to score. His team looked pitiful offensively in the second half, scoring only 15 points, which is a new Finals record.

Other Finals notes and records...

Detroit's win snapped two Sacramento streaks. The Monarchs were 11-0 at home in the playoffs and had won a WNBA record-tying 3 Finals games in a row at home. Detroit's 72-52 win was their biggest margin of victory in their two WNBA Finals series (2003 & 2006). The Shock also set a WNBA Finals record with 26 rebounds in a half (2nd) and tied a Finals record with 6 blocks in a half (2nd)

The following Monarchs players moved up to second place in WNBA Finals games played with eight after appearing in Game 4: Rebekkah Brunson, Yolanda Griffith, Kristin Haynie, Kara Lawson, Hamchetou Maiga-Ba, Ticha Penicheiro, Nicole Powell and DeMya Walker. Houston's Janeth Arcain, Cynthia Cooper, Tina Thompson and Sheryl Swoopes top the list at 9 games apiece in the Finals. Their teammate Tammy Jackson as well as New York's Vickie Johnson, Teresa Weatherspoon and Sue Wicks have also played in 8 games. Yolanda Griffith moved into second place in career free throws mane with 38. Cynthia Cooper leads with 77.

After the game last night, Yolanda Griffith took the ARCO mic and apologized for her team's effort. She all but guaranteed victory on Saturday.

In Other News... The NFL season kicks off tonight, which I am excited for as a sports fan. The last meaningful NFL game was played just down the road from us at Ford Field, Super Bowl XL... As for predictions... my fantasy team will dominate!

Click and Roll: The Back To Detroit Edition
Posted: By Mike Slane, September 7, 2006 10:22 a.m. ET

The real Shock stood up... Detroit had only lost consecutive games once all year and weren't about to do it again. After a blowout loss to the Monarchs in Game Three, the Shock stayed alive and tied the best-of-five series with a 72-52 victory in Game Four.

Smith and Co. crash Monarchs party... 'Back-To-Back Champions' t-shirts were ready to be handed out, the confetti was ready to fly and the trophy was in the building. But none of that mattered after Katie Smith came out firing and the Shock held the Monarchs to two fourth quarter points, forcing a decisive Game Five at Joe Louis Arena in downtown Detroit.

Bill Laimbeer's fued with ESPN continued after the game... "We joke a lot with our ballclub, and one of the things that we were laughing about was we would like nothing better than to go downtown and play in Joe Louis Arena and have Doris Burke actually have to go and stay in downtown Detroit. She'll probably stay in her hotel room the whole time. That was one of our driving forces today." -Bill Laimbeer according to the Sacramento Bee

In Other News... Detroit's Cheryl Ford, Houston's Michelle Snow and college star Candace Parker were added to the 2006 USA Women's World Championship Team.

Wide-Eyed on the Red Eye
Posted: By Matt Wurst, September 7, 2006 5:23 a.m. CT

Stuck waiting for a connection to Detroit in Chicago at 5 a.m. is not fun... Flights across the country in the middle of the night are never fun. But you should always be on the lookout because you never know who you are going to meet. As just about the entire WNBA scuttled out of the arena and headed from Sacramento to Detroit last night, Seaman Jeff Meng was headed back home to visit his family. The young navy man recognized ESPN's Linda Cohn and Liberty guard Becky Hammon and was overcome with excitement. Even at midnight on the west coast, the entire ESPN crew was shaking hands and signing autographs.

Meeting people like Jeff reminds us why we should be grateful to all of our troops in the armed services both at home and abroad. They are the true heroes, no matter your politics or your beliefs.

In Other News... WE HAVE A GAME 5!

WNBA Finals Game Four

See You Saturday
Posted: By Matt Wurst, September 6, 2006 8:05 p.m. PT

The Detroit Shock outplayed the Monarchs on their home court and forced a Game 5, which will take place on Saturday afternoon at 3:30 p.m. ET. Deanna Nolan got things started, but Katie Smith took over and put the game away.

Give Detroit a tremendous amount of credit... they won the toughest game of the season in the most hostile of environments. Now they get to go home and have a friendly crowd on their side yet again. It won't be The Palace of Auburn Hills, but it will still be Deeeee-troit Bas-ket-ball. This is a resilient Shock team who have still lost back-to-back games only once this season.

The Monarchs won't shy away from the challenge, however. We now have our first Game 5 in the history of the WNBA Finals!!!

Time to catch the red eye back across the country to Detroit... See ya at the Motor City...

Send It Back, Swin
Posted: By Matt Wurst, September 6, 2006 7:55 p.m. PT

Swin Cash just blocked a shot down the north tunnel. Katie Smith's dagger 3 just pushed the lead to 14 points. Four minutes to go and the crowd is as quiet as we've seen them all week.

Five Minutes Til Game 5
Posted: By Matt Wurst, September 6, 2006 7:54 p.m. PT

The Monarchs have gone ice cold and the Shock lead by 10... unless the Monarchs can mount something, anything... we're all on a plane back to Detroit.

Shock Sensing Something
Posted: By Matt Wurst, September 6, 2006 7:44 p.m. PT

Detroit continues to play with an intensity we have not yet seen this series. The Shock have scored the first five points of the quarter and have re-established the doublt-digit lead. The Monarchs shooting woes continue and Detroit's defense is the reason. There are no open looks for anyone in white right now.

Don't Count Them Out
Posted: By Matt Wurst, September 6, 2006 7:36 p.m. PT

Sacramento has scored seven straight points to cut the lead to four points. It's not over yet! The Monarchs got a surge from Kristin Haynie and Yolanda Griffith in the second half of this third quarter. The defensive intensity is back. At the end of the quarter, the lead remains at six points for the Monarchs.

Shock Are Not Faltering
Posted: By Matt Wurst, September 6, 2006 7:24 p.m. PT

The Monarchs needed to pick up their effort on the defensive end in the second half and have yet to do any of that, not blocking shots or tightening up on the perimeter. The Shock are playing just as tough, denying entry passes and just sticking to their mark on defense. And the rebounding has returned! It's that simple. Cheryl Ford has come out with force and is scoring on the post. The crowd is getting restless as the Shock have built their lead to 11.

Halftime Already?
Posted: By Matt Wurst, September 6, 2006 7:03 p.m. PT

Yup, that half flew by. Don't you sometimes wish these games went on for hours? That's how much fun we are having... The Shock are up, 43-37. This is actually the first time the Shock have taken a lead into halftime.

The Shock took the lead around four minutes in by simply out-hustling the Monarchs. And Katie Smith absolutely took over. She scored 11 points in the quarter as the Shock have put together their second strong half of the season. Detroit shot a blistering 50 percent from the floor while the Monarchs managed only 38.2 percent.

The switch has been on tonight since the opening minutes, but the Shock took things to the next level in the second quarter. Now if only halftime could fly by as quickly as the first half did...

Grateful For Their Support
Posted: By Andrew Pearson, September 6, 2006 6:50 p.m. PT

During this time out, we wanted to tell you about a few of the Monarchs' corporate sponsors who we got to meet earlier. They have helped the team not only flourish on the court, but off it as well. Steve Cottingim, Market Manager of 1140 KHTK, an affiliate of CBS Radio here in Sacramento gave us an indication as to the importance of the radio station's involvement with the Monarchs, which has been going on since the inception of the league 10 years ago.

"Our partnership with the Monarchs has just been incredible," said Steve.

Jackie McPartland, Director of Community and Corporate Relations for the University of Phoenix, filled us in on the their partnership with the Monarchs which is currently five years and going strong, and came about initially to garner some exposure for the university. Through the partnership, the unversity has been able to attract students and faculty as well as interface with fans of the Monarchs who are themselves great advocates of education. Additionally the players have been very supportive and generous with their time and resources with even Hamchetou Maiga-Ba currently taking courses online at the university.

As for her prediction for the game - "We're doing it. We're at home." Steve wasn't so quick to give his endorsement to a win saying, "I don't want to jinx it." His confidence looked unwavering however.

Shock Back On Top
Posted: By Matt Wurst, September 6, 2006 6:47 p.m. PT

Using a 12-4 run to start the second quarter, the Shock have come out firing and recaptured the lead. Katie Smith has 12 points already on 5-for-8 shooting, including two big 3-pointers this quarter. Nicole Powell is also having a time of things, having put up 12 points already as well on 5-for-5 shooting. TIME OUT! Shock, lead by two points.

Look Out Below!
Posted: By Matt Wurst, September 6, 2006 6:40 p.m. PT

It's getting physical down there as the Shock have tied the game against the Monarchs second team. The crowd is looking for more foul calls than they are getting... but here comes Yo for Sacramento.

In Other News... Hamchetoir Maiga is headed into the lockerroom after banging her head.

Two Hungry Teams
Posted: By Matt Wurst, September 6, 2006 6:29 p.m. PT

The Shock are taking it to the paint hard and fighting for buckets, but the Monarchs hold the lead after one fast-paced, high-scoring quarter, 26-22. Both of these teams are playing with fire right now, getting to the free throw line and making things happen. This might just go down to the wire and test my pacemaker.

Here Come the Monarchs
Posted: By Matt Wurst, September 6, 2006 6:17 p.m. PT

It was too easy inside for the Shock, who were getting into the lane and creating shots, but the Monarchs responded after a timeout, buckled down on defense, forced turnovers and hit the boards to erase the gap and take the lead for the first time. Bill Laimbeer finally called a time out to stop the bleeding after a 13-2 Monarchs run. That was a tough three minutes for Shock fans.

Nolan Feelin' It Early
Posted: By Matt Wurst, September 6, 2006 6:09 p.m. PT

Just four minutes into the game and the Shock have it tonight. Deanna Nolan is 3-for-3 from the floor while Cheryl Ford has hit two layups inside.

The Monarchs are down five points and not shooting the ball well, but the crowd has not quieted at all.

Off and Running
Posted: By Matt Wurst, September 6, 2006 6:03 p.m. PT

The jumbotron at tipoff said it all... "If you want another title, it's time to get loud." And it is pretty darn loud yet again. Game 4 is ON! Deanna Nolan hits her first two shots of the game as the Monarchs miss their first two attempts. But Kara Lawson drained a 3 and got the defending champs on the board for the first time.

Posted: By Matt Wurst, September 6, 2006 5:56 p.m. PT

Nothing like taking pride in ownership. Just seconds before the game, Monarchs owner Gavin Maloof took the mic and fired up the crowd.

"Show the Detroit Shock what ARCO thunder is all about."

He added, "We are going to bring home the ring tonight," then led the crowd in a loud round of "Beat the Shock."

Moments Away...
Posted: By Matt Wurst, September 6, 2006 5:46 p.m. PT

We are just a few minutes away from Game 4... but of course you knew that already. Here is what I see at the moment: DeMya Walker shooting free throws, Kara Lawson clapping vigorously, Ticha Penicheiro taking layups, Kim Smith hitting 3's, Swin Cash leading weave layup lines, the referees stretching out at midcourt and thousands and thousands of fans waiting anxiously for the game to begin.

Spoon Full of Love
Posted: By Matt Wurst, September 6, 2006 5:21 p.m. PT

Teresa Weatherspoon in the house. You know she knows a little something about big shots in big games. It was Weatherspoon's shot in Game 2 of the 1999 WNBA Finals that you, the fans, voted for as the Greatest Moment in WNBA histroy as presented by AOL.com.

"You know, the one thing no one asks me about that moment... was I alright underneath that pile," Weatherspoon told me? "We had Game 3 the next day and there was Kym Hampton as the last one jumping on that pile. I just remember Tina (Thompson) looking at me like, 'No, you did not just hit that shot."

Weatherspoon will be working on ESPN radio tonight, but took off her analyst hat for at least a second. She had a nice moment with Swin Cash and Cheryl Ford before the game as Spoon whispered something into her ear as they said hello. Unfortunately, it was something not even the Blog could overhear. Even if I could hear, I might not have wanted to share it...

Singing Along to Motown Classics
Posted: By Matt Wurst, September 6, 2006 4:57 p.m. PT

How does ARCO entertain the early-arriving crowd? With Best of Motown classics, of course... The Temptations are prophetic...

"Get Ready Because Here I Come."

The Trophy Is In The Building
Posted: By Matt Wurst, September 6, 2006 3:09 p.m. PT

I've seen it, I've touched it and I've tried to run away with it before being hunted down in the cavernous underbelly of ARCO Arena... The 2006 WNBA Finals trophy is in the building and saw the light of day for just a few minutes just now. Should the Monarchs win, everyone will see the Tiffany silver tonight. If not, we will definitely see it on Saturday.

Where is the Monarchs trophy from last year's title? On game days, it is kept in a secure case in the concourse near the ticket window. It is kept in the vault at all other times.

Game Day...
Posted: By Matt Wurst, September 6, 2006 7:42 a.m. PT

Is today the day that Sacramento joins the elitest of the elite in WNBA history or the day we look back on as the beginning of the Shock turnaround and recapturing of series momentum? I have a feeling in my gut... and it is one of pure excitement and anticipation. We may be 10 hours away, but I might have to head over the arena now just to sit there and wait.

Click and Roll: The Game Four Edition
Posted: By Mike Slane, September 6, 2006 10:22 a.m. ET

Tonight as the Monarchs go for the clincher on their home court, the Shock will look to stay alive and bring the series back to Detroit. Catch all the action at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN 2.

One win away from another party in Sactown... Monarchs guard Ticha Penicheiro remembers the hugs, confetti and cheers from last season and would love to experience the surreal scene again. Forward Nicole Powell told The Sacramento Bee that "you can't not think about it." But the Monarchs know they need to win a tough game before there is any celebrating.

It's just them against the world... At least that's how Shock coach Bill Laimbeer is feeling coming into Game Four with his team trailing 2-1 in the best-of-five series. Laimbeer received a $500 fine for remarks made about the officiating in Game Three and is unhappy with ESPN for comments they've made about his team. "We're telling ESPN today to basically stick it," Laimbeer told the Detroit Free Press.

A New Fan In Everyone You Meet...
Posted: By Matt Wurst, September 6, 2006 12:56 a.m. PT

You never know who the person sitting next to you might be. A father, a mother, a coach, a sports fan, a corporate executive... each one a potential WNBA fan, sponsor or even investor.

WNBA players are not the only ambassadors for the league. Every time someone who is even remotely associated with the WNBA, whether league or team staff and especially the fans, meets someone new and talks about either what they do do a living or who their favorite team is and why, we all have a responsibility to sell the sport. For me, getting to meet new people and having a captive audience is one of the best aspects of my job. Not only do we get to meet a wide variety of interesting people, but we have to opportunity to convert them as fans.

We are missionaries of basketball.

Tonight we may have met the most interesting, unique and atypical potential WNBA fan you can possibly imagine. WNBA fans do not fit any molds, so you just have to assume that anyone might be interested in learning more about the premiere female sports league. What if I was to tell you about a former CIA operative and high-ranking general in the Bolivian army named Frank, now in his late sixties or early seventies, who may or may not be the heir to Monteczuma's treasure and travels around between his many homes across the world with tens of thousands of dollars in his pockets while riding on a motorized scooter complete with his own security detail. And what if I was then to tell you he has 15 tickets for tomorrow's game? You see? WNBA fans are everywhere!

Old fans and new fans alike, we are growing... WNBA fans come from all places and are made up of every variety of race, creed, ethnicity, nationality, secual orientation and age. Yet we all share this common passion. And it is amazing.

Chipotle finance executive Matt Elder is now a WNBA fan... Dr. Luis Mendes and his daughters are WNBA fans... Sheraton hotel housekeeping manager Derrick is a WNBA... and I already told you about blackberry sleuths Farooq and Shanda. All will be at the game tonight. All have been converted.

This is the primary reason I know that the WNBA is onto something. People believe in it. We all just have to do our part to help spread the gospel.

In Less Than 24 Hours...
Posted: By Matt Wurst, September 5, 2006 8:27 p.m. PT

...we will know whether or not the Monarchs have won their second consecutive championship or if we are headed to a Game 5 in Detroit. How will you sleep tonight?

Each team has a brief shootaround in the morning and will gear up in the afternoon and evening for the 6 p.m. local time start. That's 9 p.m. for you East Coasters, 8 p.m. for my friends in Chicago and 7 p.m. for my Denver Broncos watching from the Mile High City...

There really is not much left to say or write about as far as the game goes. Yet, we'll still try... Each team knows what it has to do and understands the consequences of a win and a loss. I would be surprised if we did not see a close game. I will say that I am surprised that so many people have written the Shock off in this game. This series is not over, folks. Not at all. Detroit has lost back-to-back games only once this season, so it can be argued that no one makes adjustments better than the Eastern Conference champs. They responded with a win in Game 2, so who knows?

In Other News... ESPN's Nancy Lieberman and ESPN.com's Graham Hays will be chatting with fans at 4 p.m. ET. I might just have to drop in and surprise them...

Posted: By Matt Wurst, September 5, 2006 3:41 p.m. PT

How did the Shock look at practice today? Loose and relaxed, but prepared. Coaches Bill Laimbeer and Rick Mahorn put on a show for the assembled media by playing Elaine Powell and Plenette Pierson in a game of two-on-two. And they were playing hard. And nothing has changed... Rick and Bill still play dirty.

Click and Roll: The Another Day Of Rest Edition
Posted: By Mike Slane, September 5, 2006 10:44 a.m. ET

Led by 2005 WNBA Finals M.V.P. Yolanda Griffith and her aggressive defense, the Sacramento Monarchs are one game away from rolling to a second straight crown.

A two-and-a-half day break will force the two teams to wait another day to play. The question now is which team will benefit more from the extra rest?

Detroit Shock coach Bill Laimbeer expects his team to be mentally prepared and also demands that the refs give the Shock the same calls as they give the Monarchs.

League attendance has dropped over the past four seasons, but WNBA President Donna Orender is confident that the league will have another 10 solid years. If anybody thinks the league is not athletic enough to draw more fans, they should watch Deanna Nolan and DeMya Walker play tomorrow night and there's a good chance their opinions could change.

Ask The Editor...
Posted: By Matt Wurst, September 5, 2006 7:11 a.m. PT

With another day off in between games, let's dip into the fan mailbag. Practice is later, Game 4 is Wednesday...

Dear Editor, The Detroit Shock have been outclassed and outplayed all series so far. What has surprised you most about the Finals so far?
-Ashamed, Ann Arbor, MI

Where have the Detroit Shock from the regular season gone? They have fallen harder and faster than Diff'rent Strokes stars Gary Coleman, Todd Bridges and Dana Plato combined! That said, they are only down 2-1 when this series could very easily have been over by now. What has surprised me most is the way that the Monarchs posts have had their way with the Shock inside. I am also surprised at how undisciplined the Shock have looked on the offensive end for extended stretches. Finally, the last surprise is just how poorly of a job i did packing. I am on the verge of having no more clean clothes and everything was closed for Labor Day Weekend. So you know where I'll be going later today...

As a student of history, I would appreciate your perspective on where the Monarchs would rank as one of the all-time great teams in history should they pull off the back-to-back repeat? When does a team officially become a dynasty?
-Oscar, Solomito, OH

With a second straight title, the Monarchs would move into elite company. They would still remain below the Comets and Sparks for me because of the number of years of dominance, but their legacy would be impossible to deny. With Yolanda Griffith and Ticha Penicheiro, you have two of the most decorated and acclaimed players in WNBA history. Kara Lawson has emerged as one of the most clutch shooters in the game and Coach John Whisenant is just an exceptional coach. As for what makes a dynasty, that is a great question. Is it a certain number of championships over the short term (Like the Sparks of the 00's) or several championships won in a particular decade? (Like the Lakers teams of the 80s). I think it differs from league to league. In the WNBA, the Comets were definitely a dynasty. Four straight titles... yup. The Sparks won two and went to the Finals the next year. I'd give it to them only because we don't have much else to compare it to. I'd then look at the NBA. The 1956 to 69 Celtics won 11 titles in 13 years, including 8 in a row, No one has come close to replicating that feat except the 1991-98 Chicago Bulls, who won 6 titles in 8 years and would have had an excellent shot at making it eight straight had Michael Jordan not gone to play baseball. The Lakers teams of the 80s established a dynasty by reaching the NBA Finals eight times, winning five titles. (They lost to the Philadelphia 76ers, Boston and the Detroit Pistons). So to answer your question, I think we would need to see what happens next year with Sacramento to determine whether or not they are a dynasty.

What's better? Sacramento or Detroit?
-LeTitia, Los Santos, N.M.

Both cities have their pros and cons. As a New Yorker, I am biased that my city is the best, but I have come to love traveling and really enjoy getting to know other cities. Unfortunately, we do not have too much time to get out and see the sites. I did not get to spend time in downtown Detroit, though the northern suburbs are quite lovely. Here in Sacramento, we are staying downtown, and while there are not as many options for things that I have grown accustomed to in New York, this city is full of life. There are great restaurants within walking distance of our hotel and the weather has been great. Detroit is bigger with more options, but has worse traffic. Sacramento is more peaceful, but it is harder to fly to. That said, here are my top five favorite WNBA towns, excluding New York:
1. Los Angeles - because it's like New York, but with more plastic surgery...
2. Seattle - just a great, chill city with good coffee even though I do not drink coffee...
3. Washington - because it is close to New York and has clean subways
4. Chicago - what's not to love about the Windy City, other than the wind?
5. 8-way tie between everywhere else.

I heard on the television that Doris Burke thinks you think the Shock have an on/off switch. Why is it not always on? As professional athletes, to have come this far and not understand that winning a championship requires maximum effort is inexcusable. Shouldn't the coach bear the responsibility for this? People have said that if the Shock lose, they should change their roster. But what about the coach? How come he gets a free pass? By the way, I'm a big fan and your blog has kept us rolling. Thanks for bringing some life to what can be a dry world...
-Berry, Palermo, MI

A. Thanks, Berry. You're sweet (that was too easy). It's hard for me to criticize a team, a coach or a player not knowing all that goes on behind the scenes. But yes, there has been an apparent lack of effort. The Shock have talked about it, Coach Laimbeer has talked about it and the scores have demonstrated it. You're right, though, that a lack of effort is inexcusable at this late stage of the game. Perhaps the Monarchs have just played really well and disrupted the Shock, getting them out of their comfort zone. The Shock are a VERY talented team. Bill Laimbeer is a good coach. There is no reason this relationship can't work. Plus, they did win 25 games and are in Game 4 of the WNBA Finals. I cannot really call that a disappointment. I can think of many teams who would love to be in this situation right now.

I am a *frequent flier* on the WNBA website, and am very interested in communicating with one of your Fan Bloggers, Melissa. I, too, am a Sun fan, and would love to ask her some questions.If you have any way of forwarding my e-mail address to her so she could contact me, I would be most appreciative, as I have many questions for her.
-Howard, Stevens, PA

Sure, her phone number is (203) 555-3467. Okay, not really, but Melissa, if you happen to read this, Howard is looking for you.

I am so jealous that you get to go to all of the Finals games! Do you pinch yourself sitting behind the Monarchs bench? Will you give them a message for me that I am rooting so hard for them. I love your blog, keep writing.
-Lenore, Elk Grove, CA

I don't often pinch myself because that would hurt too much. But it is awesome being so close to the bench that you can listen in on the huddles and get hit in the face with towels when players are done with them.


I am sure there are always openings for talented, driven, intelligent people. I would recommend checking out the NBA/WNBA jobs database. I just hope you aren't gunning for my job. Though with your penchant for using caps lock, I am not sure you'd be a likely candidate for the Dot.com job anyway.

Matt, What are your predicitions for the Finals?
-Nelson, Baltimore, MD

I'll admit I got this question last week, but since this is the first time I've had the chance to address it... so here's what I see happening. I think the series will DEFINITELY go four or five games. I think the Monarchs will win one on the road in Detroit and have the chance to wrap it up at home.

Old Sacramento is Fantastic...
Posted: By Matt Wurst, September 4, 2006 12:55 a.m. PT

After a great dinner at Mikuni in Sacramento, we finally got the chance to see Old Sacramento... a little dusty, but great times. Thanks, Farooq, for finding my bberry in your cab. Enjoy Game 4! I hope you and Shanda have a great time...

Win Or Go Home...
Posted: By Matt Wurst, September 4, 2006 2:55 p.m. PT

...Backs against the wall... do or die... take care of business... must win... take one game at a time... on the brink... I could really go on. No, really, I could.

The beauty of elimination/clinching games is that the cliches fly faster than a Tweety Nolan fastbreak. But in the case of the Detroit Shock, who face elimination on Wednesday night in Game 4, the classically overused sports cliches really do apply. The team also knows what's a stake.

"This is definitely win or go home," Katie Smith said half jokingly. "Win or else, we know what we have to do, come hard for 40 minutes... whoever wants it more will win. There are some good ones out there, but they mean nothing if we don't actually back it up."

Cliche? Sure. True? Very.

But she also got serious.

"It's about the effort and not making mental mistakes," she said.

Never outspoken, Shock coach Bill Laimbeer admitted that he has some good euphamisms.

"None of them are fit for print, though," he said.

During their time with the media watching, the Shock were light, loose and seemed to be having fun. They were loud and the empty arena echoed with laughter. Laimbeer did spend much of that time with Swin Cash, off in the corner of the floor in what looked from afar like a serious, but studious conversation about what they need to do to be successful in Game 4.

He answered ESPN.com's Mechelle Voepel's question about a leadership issue on his team very directly.

"Last year, I knew who (our leader) was. This year, I'm not so sure."

After the media finished with its pictures, Laimbeer got serious and cleared the gym. It was time to get down to business.

In Other News... The Monarchs practiced in the practice facility next door to the arena while the Shock took the floor at ARCO. The two teams will be back at ARCO tomorrow for another practice day. For now, there is nothing to do but wait... and perhaps take in the sites of Sacramento.

Posted: By Matt Wurst, September 4, 2006 1:31 p.m. PT

After very sneakily putting a picture up here yesterday of Monarchs photographer Rocky Widner, you knew he'd come right back at me. And with a name like Rocky, you know he'd come out fighting. He snapped this shot of me just a few minutes ago, and I am stepping up and posting it. It's only fair.

See, I really do work...

Working on His Short Game
Posted: By Matt Wurst, September 4, 2006 1:45 p.m. PT

What does John Whisenant like most about his job? It might be the amount of time he gets to spend playing golf in the offseason. Of course, once summer comes, he does not get to spend as much time as he might like hitting the links. That is especially true this summer as a result of the unfortunate passing of his mother earlier this season.

"One of my golf buddies from Sacramento was a guest of Donna Orender last night and is entertaining the notion of bringing a WNBA team to Albuquerque," Whisenant said. "He said he misses me and can hardly afford his house payment with me out of town."

He was joking, naturally, but Whisenant is a man who is passionate about his golf, that's for sure.

Yet Whisenant is just days away from being able to return to the course, that is, if his team can wrap up the series on Wednesday and capture its second consecutive title. In order to do that, his team will need to go in for the kill tomorrow night. So what is the psychology needed to possess that killer instinct?

"We have a good system, so I will not do or say anything different," Whisenant said. "Our defensive and offensive system is about keeping the pressure on. We equate it to having a vice grip on your head and we just keep squeezing until they break. Our goal is to stay completely focused. We have no individual stuff. It is all about the team."

Of course, they want to win at home and avoid having to go back to Detroit for a Game 5 (not that Detroit would not be super fun to return to for another few days...)

"We discussed today that we do not want to go back there. Right now, it is Advantage: Sacramento. We have them in our house, we are sleeping in our beds and we cannot allow ourselves to get out of the present and think about how nice it would be to win a second championship. If so, we would be playing around with a rattlesnake that might bite us and poison us and have us back in Detroit. That would mean Advantage: Detroit."

Where did I just hear that rattlesnake line... (see previous entry)? Does Coach Whis read the blog?!?!

In Other News... Yolanda Griffith has developed an affinity for those too-small baby t-shirts. She showed up to practice today in one and took some ribbing from her teammates... Also practicing on the next court from the Monarchs was Kings guard Mike Bibby, who is a big Monarchs fan and hopes to be able to come to Game 4. He was working on his shooting for nearly an hour with several friends, Turtle, Johnny Drama and Eric... And thanks for the kicks, Jill. You are to equipment managers what Mr. Belevedere was to the Owens family.

Guess Whose Car This Is
Posted: By Matt Wurst, September 4, 2006 11:13 a.m. PT

Thanks For the Laughs, Croc Hunter
Posted: By Matt Wurst, September 4, 2006 11:13 a.m. PT

Sad news from Australia, where everyone's favorite crocodile hunter, Steve Irwin, lost his battle with the wild elements of nature. Never one to shy away from anything, he kept us informed and laughing... sometimes at him. But the lesson here is never get too close to a rattlesnake or it just might bite you. Our thoughts are with his loved ones.

Click and Roll: The Labor Day Edition
Posted: By Mike Slane, September 4, 2006 9:44 a.m. PT

The Sacramento Monarchs are on the brink of a second straight championship and coach Laimbeer is on the brink of erupting over the officiating after an 89-69 victory over the Detroit Shock in Sunday's Game Three. Where was the Shock's desire, focus and concentration that we saw in Game Two? Could it have been left in the team hotel?

The Monarchs never trailed and were up by as many as 27 points as they took a 2-1 series lead. Depth is definitely a factor in this series as Sacramento's bench outscored the Shock's 42-17 in the win. Nicole Powell hit 2-of-3 from beyond the arc and finished with 14 points. Her wing partner, Kara Lawson, who scored 22 points in the series opener, finished scoreless, but is still a reliable outside presence along with Powell.

Detroit's Ruth Riley, who is a former Finals MVP, has only averaged two points and 1.8 rebounds in the first three games.

In Other News... Los Angeles Sparks center Lisa Leslie won her third WNBA Most Valuable Player award on Sunday... Leslie withdraws from USA Basketball roster.

Labor of Love
Posted: By Matt Wurst, September 4, 2006 12:05 a.m. PT

Happy Labor Day, officially. It is now Monday morning, though still feels like Sunday night. There was not supposed to be any official practice or events later today, but the teams each decided to schedule a practice, and we will be there.

So after a nice evening around downtown Sacramento, a great team dinner at Zocalo and a stop at our favorite Sunday night karaoke joint that we discovered last season (naturally we heard Purple Rain, as a tribute to the Monarchs), I thought some more about Game 3. The Monarchs shot 6-for-10 from 3-point range while the Shock shot a meager 0-for-5 from beyond the arc. Remarkably, the Monarchs have outscored the Shock in 11 of the 12 quarters this series. It just comes down to a lack of execution and a lack of motivation.

Long after the game ended today and we were wrapping up our post-game coverage, the arena and league staff were rehearsing for the trophy presentation should the Monarchs win on Wednesday. ARCO ushers and security members like Larry, Frank and Wally expect to see their Monarchs crowned again and cannot wait to be apart of it. For now, time to get some sleep and dream about behind-the-back passes and fastbreak layups.

WNBA Finals Game Three

One Win Away
Posted: By Matt Wurst, September 3, 2006 4:03 p.m. PT

Tonight's blowout in Sacramento looked familiar... because it had many shades of Game 1 in it. Turnovers KILLED the Shock tonight, just like they did on Wednesday. The Shock also got limited output from its frontcourt and next to nothing from its reserves. Meanwhile, the Monarchs bench was deadly in the second and fourth quarters, helping to build the lead and then put the game away. The Monarchs are now just one win away from their second consecutive WNBA title and can wrap things up on Wednesday night (9 p.m. ET, 6 p.m. local time). If the Monarchs get the same lift from the crowd and the Shock come out with the same lack of energy like they did tonight, the bubbly could be a'flowin.

That Could Be It
Posted: By Matt Wurst, September 3, 2006 3:48 p.m. PT

The bench is back! Haynie and Buescher in the fourth quarter have pushed the lead to 25 points now. It's just a matter of time now...

Watch the Pushing
Posted: By Matt Wurst, September 3, 2006 3:43 p.m. PT

Getting a little chippy here as the fourth quarter rolls along. Less scoring, more banging. Neither team has hit a field goal and we are three minutes into the final stanza. I think we've had 38 jump balls tonight, but I'll have to check the box score on that.

Did You See That!?!
Posted: By Matt Wurst, September 3, 2006 3:32 p.m. PT

Erin Buescher NAILS a 3-pointer with the shot clock winding down and her teammates all yelling at her to shoot. She didn't even turn around all the way before knocking down the 20-foot shot.

22-point lead for the Monarchs at the end of three quarters and the Monarchs fans are having a grand ol' time tonight.

Toeing the Party Line
Posted: By Matt Wurst, September 3, 2006 3:27 p.m. PT

The Monarchs have built up a 16-point lead with two minutes to go in the quarter by getting to the free throw line. It seems like we've spent the last five minutes watching free throws. Maybe we should just decide this series by one giant game of Knockout...

We're Famous!
Posted: By Matt Wurst, September 3, 2006 3:17 p.m. PT

Thanks for the shout out, Doris Burke. The on/off switch is definitely off so far for the Shock frontline... though Cheryl Ford is coming to life a bit.

More faces in the crowd... Kings players Kevin Martin and Shareef Abdur Raheem... Liberty forward Shameka Christon...

Posted: By Matt Wurst, September 3, 2006 3:08 p.m. PT

The Shock have yet to show any signs of real life in the second half? Were those halftime fireworks just show? Turnovers and bad shots continue as the lead grows to 14 for Sacramento.

Breaktime Breakdown
Posted: By Matt Wurst, September 3, 2006 2:57 p.m. PT

Despite 16 points from Deanna Nolan, the Shock are down 11 points at the half. Aside from Nolan, the rest of the Shock team is 5-for-15 from the field. Where were Ruth Riley and Cheryl Ford that half? Where was the Shock bench (zero points)? Meanwhile, the Monarchs defense has also limited the number of good shots that the Shock have been able to get off. The Monarchs were just a step or two quicker and outscored the Shock 24-12 in the paint. Walker had 11 points and Griffith had 10.

In Other News... We are being treated to a halftime show from the National Trampoline Champion. That naturally begs the question... there are National Trampoline Championships?

Here Comes Yo
Posted: By Matt Wurst, September 3, 2006 2:44 p.m. PT

Yolanda Griffith just scored five straight points to put the Monarchs back up by double digits after the Shock were threatening to close the gap. Yo took exception to us calling her the oldest player in the WNBA in a previous entry, yet she is. Despite claiming that Tari Phillips is older, the Monarchs center is, in fact, five days older than Phillips.

Nolan Hits, Walker Hurts
Posted: By Matt Wurst, September 3, 2006 2:36 p.m. PT

Nolan scored her 14th point to cut the lead to four, but Nicole Powell answered... Meanwhile, DeMya Walker came up hobbling after getting stepped on. She went straight to the bench and was examined by the team trainer. After a time out just a minute later, she came out to greet her teammates at the huddle. She is okay and will return. She just looked up at me and shook her head in apparent agreement with that last sentence.

Put Me In, Coach
Posted: By Matt Wurst, September 3, 2006 2:26 p.m. PT

The Monarchs bench has been the key so far in the second quarter. Scholanda Dorrell, Rebekkah Brunson and Kristin Haynie have scored the first 11 points for Sacramento, who maintain an eight-to-10 point lead. Since we are literally right on top of the bench and considering how deep the Monarchs, I wonder if I can get a look from Coach Whiz. My jumper is ON today, I can feel it.

Monarchs Go Up Ten
Posted: By Matt Wurst, September 3, 2006 2:19 p.m. PT

Scholanda Dorrell hit a 3 seconds into the opening quarter, followed by a Rebekkah Brunson fastbreak layup, followed by another Dorrell 3-pointer from the opposite corner. Double digit lead for the home team.

Tweety Takes Flight
Posted: By Matt Wurst, September 3, 2006 2:12 p.m. PT

Deanna Nolan hit her third shot as time expired in the first quarter to cut the Monarchs lead to just two points. Nolan has seven points while DeMya Walker has 11 points on 5-for-5 from the floor. Yolanda Griffith spent most of the quarter on the bench... 20-16 lead after the first quarter.

Pick and (sesame seed) Roll
Posted: By Matt Wurst, September 3, 2006 2:02 p.m. PT

Monarchs assistant Tom Abatamarco tells his players on the bench to look up high and the pick and roll because it's there...

In Other News... Best part of being on the West coast? Clearly it is the fast food options... Jack in the Box, Carl's Jr., In-N-Out Burger... Hooray!

DeMya... On F'ya
Posted: By Matt Wurst, September 3, 2006 1:55 p.m. PT

Has seven of the Monarch's first nine points in just four minutes of action. 9-7, Sacramento with an early lead at the first time out.

Off and Running
Posted: By Matt Wurst, September 3, 2006 1:51 p.m. PT

Game 3 is underway as Ticha Penicheiro hits the first shot of the game... Today, redemption is spelled T I C H A...

In Other News... One of the great features of this arena is that family members get to sit right next to the bench. Just before the tip, Yolanda Griffith was able to get one last hug from her daughter.

Posted: By Matt Wurst, September 3, 2006 1:39 p.m. PT

ARCO Arena comes to life as the house is nearly full, the teams are finishing up their warmups.

The building is maintaining its reputation as one of the best home arenas in the league thus far. Our National Anthem was sung by Lorraine DeArco (no relation to the arena or the fuel company after which the arena is named), which was immediately followed by fans "stomping the lights out." One of the great traditions here, fans stomp their feet until the lights go out. They then stay on their feet until the Monarchs make their first basket.

More faces in the crowd... Comets forward Mistie Williams... Liberty center Iciss Tillis... Nicole Powell's parents from the plane... Kings coach Eric Musselman... WNBA M.V.P. Lisa Leslie... and rumor has it that Hillary Duff and rapper Xzibit are on their way. We 'bout to "Pimp this Finals."

And Your M.V.P Is...
Posted: By Matt Wurst, September 3, 2006 12:50 p.m. PT

Congratulations to Sparks center Lisa Leslie, your 2006 WNBA M.V.P.. What a tremendous year for Leslie, who joins Sheryl Swoopes as the three-time Most Valuable Players. No one rocks the sleeveless one-piece skirt like Lisa...

The Big M
Posted: By Matthew Brennan, September 3, 2006 12:24 p.m. PT

When sitting in an empty ARCO Arena before game time, one might presume that some of the black leather courtside seats have a Silver M on the backs. After asking friendly ARCO Arena security staff members Bob and John what they're meaning was, they explained to me that they are actually seatcovers that are placed on certain seats for VIP guests of the Maloofs. Bob and John explained that this is an easy way for them to locate the proper seats when they are escorting special guests of the Maloofs to courtside.

However, the two "M" seats closest to center court are specifically reserved for the Maloof brothers, although they have been known to leave center court to watch games from the tunnel, and even in the back with the bus drivers.

When Coaches Collide...
Posted: By Matt Wurst, September 3, 2006 12:12 p.m. PT

Okay, well not really, but during the pre-game shootaround just a minute ago, Coaches Bill Laimbeer and John Whisenant had a nice chat near the Monarchs bench.

Laimbeer: "What up, Whiz!"

Whisenant: "What's up, big Bill! I called to see if you wanted to play golf yesterday."

Laimbeer: "We were in traffic from San Francisco. Catching connections was not easy here. This town is a duff to fly into. You are the only team in the league where we have to connect to get to from Detroit."

Whisenant: "That doesn't sound like fun."

Laimbeer: "You couldn't move the franchise?"

Whisenant: "Have fun today."

Laimbeer: "You, too."

Becky In The House
Posted: By Matt Wurst, September 3, 2006 11:31 a.m. PT

Straight from her vacation in the Bahamas, Liberty guard Becky Hammon is in the house... no she is not the M.V.P... She will be joining Linda and Nancy in the ESPN studio show for the rest of the week. She was great during Round One, so we look forward to watching her again and possibly hitting up her favorite sushi joint here in town after the game.

In Other News... There is nothing better than kids dance teams. I mean, seriously. They rule. When I have kids, they are definitely going to be on dance teams.

The Man Behind the Camera
Posted: By Matt Wurst, September 3, 2006 10:06 a.m. PT

Meet Rocky Widner, the photographer for all home Monarchs and Kings games. You've seen his name all over WNBA.com and NBA.com, but only as a photo credit. You'll be seeing much of his work over the next few days as he roams ARCO Arena for the best photography.

Of course, this photo would have come out much better had he taken it and not me.

All Dressed Up With Nowhere to Go
Posted: By Matt Wurst, September 3, 2006 9:19 a.m. PT

And we are blogging live from ARCO Arena... The last time the Finals Blog was here, there was purple and silver confetti everywhere. But with ample time to clean up since last September, things look like they're ready to go here. Of course, there is nothing like getting to the arena bright and early, all ready to talk to players and coaches only to find out that both teams have cancelled their practices. We would have been all ready to tell you how the players are feeling this morning.

Though it looks like we are not the only ones scrambling to adjust to the schedule and tight turnaround time. Shock center Ruth Riley just instant messaged me to find out what time the game starts. So let's clear it all up... 4:30 p.m. ET. 1:30 p.m. local time.

"Yeah... it's goin 2 be fun," she writes. "We need 2 take care of business 2day!!"

In Other News... The WNBA will reveal the 2006 WNBA Most Valuable Player this afternoon... and the winner will be in the building!

Click and Roll: The Game Three Edition
Posted: By Mike Slane, September 3, 2006 9:12 a.m. PT

The Sacramento Monarchs won their first five postseason games, but that streak ended in Game Two as the Monarchs lost their form and got fatigued on their way to a fourth quarter collapse.

The Shock now must go to one of the nations loudest arenas, where they lost by an average of 36.5 points in their previous two visits, and build on their Game Two win.

All the action begins this afternoon at 4:30 p.m. ET on ESPN 2. Now is there better way to spend a Sunday afternoon?

Wake Up, People!
Posted: By Matt Wurst, September 3, 2006 5:52 a.m. PT

It's game day!

Give A Little Bit
Posted: By Matt Wurst, September 2, 2006 7:30 p.m. PT

After traveling all morning and afternoon, eating healthy and delicious airplane food, what better way to spend the evening than talking about fitness and nutrition!

This evening, nearly a dozen past and present WNBA players, not to mention countless league and team staff members, took part in a fun yet educational event with approximately 100 children or so. They are apart of the Jr. NBA and Jr. WNBA leagues in the area and all were decked in their favorite teams... Monarchs, Silver Stars, Rockets, Lakers, Heat, Wizards... you name it, they had it. As part of the WNBA Cares program, the event took place at the Barbara Morse Wackford Community and Aquatic Complex on the outskirts of the California capitol.

Now I've been to a lot of NBA and WNBA Cares events over the years, and this may have been the best one yet.

Once again, WNBA great and part-time WNBA.com columnist Jennifer Azzi as well as Sacramento legend and fitness guru Ruthie Bolton served as the emcees for the event. They were joined by former Monarchs star Edna Campbell, Monarchs rookies Brittany Wilkins and Chameka Scott. But the WNBA did not stop there, inviting an entire slate of non-WNBA Finals participants such as Comets rookie Mistie Williams, Mercury forward Ann Strother, Liberty forward Shameka Christon, All-Rookie Team and Sky forward Candice Dupree and 2004 WNBA Finals M.V.P. Betty Lennox.

After a brief intro, the players and groups split up into different stations. Azzi, Mistie Williams, Chameka Scott and Edna Campbell led the speed and agility station, teaching the kids a number of exercises they can do on their own. Shameka Christon, Ann Strother and Betty Lennox ran the strength training station, which educated the kids on how to work out a number of muscle groups. Ruthie Bolton and Nikki Blue showed the children about core training and nearly worked them to the point of fatigue. It never gets tiring to watch Ruthie do crunches, situps, leg raises and superman planks. Finally, Candice Dupree and WNBA fitness advisor Richelle Lund spoke to the groups about healthy diet choices and behaviors. So what did I learn? Eat breakfast, drink lots of water, eat lots of fruit and vegetables and go with small meals over large meals.

Said one boy, Michael, a member of the Miami Heat Bobs (yes, that is their real name) in their matching Los Angeles Lakers uniforms (I was confused, too), "This is the coolest thing ever. I am going to take a drink from the water fountain every time I walk by.""

The WNBA players and mentors brought out all of the key elements of the Be-Smart - Be Fit - Be Yourself program, such as fitness, nutrition and positive self-esteem.

Of course, it's also fun to see players from different teams and backgrounds come together to take part in such a special day.

In Other News... Time for me to get back to the gym. No, seriously. This time I mean it.

Also, Sacramento is called the City of Trees, and I never really understood why until going out into suburban Elk Grove. It really is lush and beautiful. Of course, the city is just about the flattest place you can imagine. You can literally see for miles in all directions. If Columbus landed here instead, he would have been right.

Posted: By Matt Wurst, September 2, 2006 3:27 p.m. PT

Sitting in the tightest of spaces here at 34,000 feet en route from Detroit to Sacramento, I cannot help but ponder the irrational-yet-scientifically-irrefutable theory of lift.

What makes things fly?

Sure, I know all about Bernoulli and how planes get off the ground, but I was actually thinking more about the lift that Swin Cash gave her Detroit Shock teammates in the 73-63 Game 2 win last night. You know, the emotional kind. Cash, who is in her fifth season out of the University of Connecticut, may not have the force of a twin jet engine aircraft, but she played with such force on Friday night that she lifted her teammates up and flew them to victory.

The 6-2 Olympic gold medal-winning forward scored zero points and played only 11 minutes in Game 1. She was benched in the second half after a poor start to the game. Much has already been said and written about the animated discussion she and Coach Bill Laimbeer had on the bench during the first half after she was yanked. Yet in the 48 hours after what was arguably the worst game in her career, Cash showed her resilience and just how strong she is.

With her team looking at the strong possiblity of losing their second straight game at home and going down 0-2 in the best-of-five Finals series, Cash responded and scored nine points in the first half en route to her 11 points. She also led the Shock with eight rebounds and five assists. She also had only two turnovers, the fewest of any Detroit starter.

"I just came out and watched some film about what they took away from me in the first game," Cash said. "I don't think I came out and did any thing different or had a different mindset. It's the Finals, I prepare the same way."

Swin is the captain. She is the emotional and vocal leader of this club and is as strong and driven a human being that I know. She is deeply religious and has a strong, loving family from which she draws her strength. Ask her and she will tell you the best part about the Finals so far has not come on the court, but actually getting to spend time with her mom.

So after Game 1, you knew she had the mettle to turn things around. But she was not only motivated to play well for herself, but also to inspire her teammates to play better and give them that lift that was missing in Game 1. Cash is the player who talks in the huddles. Swin is the player who gives you that first high-five after hitting a big bucket and Swin is also the player who gives you that same high-five after missing a big shot.

She was also a catalyst on the defensive end as well. Sacramento forward Nicole Powell went off for 21 points in Game 1, but with Cash playing extended minutes and staying active at all times, Powell was limited to just five points in Game 2. The Shock limited the Monarchs to 21 second half points of Game 2. Detroit allowed 42 points in the second half of Game 1. After allowing at least 25 points in four of the first five quarters of the series, Detroit limited sacramento to 37 points in the final three quarters of Game 2.

The bottom line is that when Swin Cash plays well and with real energy, the Shock win. When she is off her game, they lose. Her teammates Cheryl Ford, Katie Smith and Deanna Nolan each played well in Game 1 and Game 2. But the difference between winning and losing was Cash.

"I thought Swin Cash played the way we want her to play," Shock coach Bill Laimbeer said. She came from the start and brought all the energy in the world to our ballclub. That is the statline I envisioned for her when they started the season."

In Other News... We had the pleasure of traveling with Nicole Powell's mother and father from Detroit to Sacramento. So with the Powell family cheering on their daughter this series, you have to wonder... if the Powells are here, is Charles in Charge?

Click and Roll: We're On a MF Plane Edition
Posted: By Mike Slane, September 2, 2006 9:07 a.m. ET

The Shock are back and we've got a series... Last night the Shock recovered from a Game One blowout defeat on Wednesday by beating up on the Monarchs in the second half of Game Two on their way to a 73-63 victory. Game Three of the even series will be played in Sacramento on Sunday.

Finishing strong... Following a three-pointer by Katie Smith with two seconds left in the third quarter, Detroit outscored Sacramento 25-9 in the fourth quarter.

Swin Cash, who finished Game One scoreless in 11 minutes, came to play on Friday. The Shock forward rebounded from her poor performance by finishing Game Two with 11 points, eight rebounds and five assists in 34 minutes.

Game One it was Cash, Game Two it was Ticha Penicheiro... Penicheiro finished Game Two without scoring any points or grabbing any rebounds in 24 minutes.

In Other News... WNBA President Donna Orender is upset by venue changes during the postseason... Seattle's Lauren Jackson was named to the All-WNBA first team for the fourth consecutive season Friday... Lisa Leslie led all vote-getters with 278 points when the league's first and second teams were announced... Katie Douglas became the first player in Sun history to be selected to the All-WNBA first team... General manager of the Phoenix Mercury Seth Sulka stepped down on Friday ending a ten-year run with the franchise.

WNBA Finals Game Two

And We're All Tied Up
Posted: By Matt Wurst, September 1, 2006 10:00 p.m. ET

Looking squarely in the face of an 0-2 deficit at halftime, the Detroit Shock did not like what they saw, so they decided to do something about it. The Shock went back to the basics, hit the boards and started scoring in the paint. Then Katie Smith started shooting and it was all but over. The All-Star guard scored 16 points, all in the second half, and Deanna Nolan went to work cutting up the Monarchs defense.

In what was a tale of two very different halves, the Monarchs carried a nine-point lead into the lockerroom. But after scoring 12 points in a strong first half, Yolanda Griffith had two points in the second half, well after the game was decided. Sacramento went ice cold and finished shooting a frozen 32.0 percent from the floor. The Monarchs also wasted a great effort from reserve point guard Kristin Haynie.

The Monarchs came into Detroit and got what it needed... a win. They will be galvanized by their fans at ARCO on Sunday afternoon.

Time to wrap things up from Detroit, pack our bags and head out west. We've got a series now, folks.

The Fork Is Out
Posted: By Matt Wurst, September 1, 2006 9:47 p.m. ET

...and the Shock are getting ready to stab it in the collective back of the Monarchs and call it a day. Katie Smith's 3-pointer from my lap extended the Shock lead to nine points with under three minutes to go. Momentum has clearly changed into a red and blue jersey.

Heating Up When It Counts
Posted: By Matt Wurst, September 1, 2006 9:38 p.m. ET

Detroit is 6-for-7 from the field in the fourth quarter while Sacramento is 0-for-7. It's getting so tight I might have to loosen my tie. Nah, I'd better not.

Shock Foul Trouble
Posted: By Matt Wurst, September 1, 2006 9:33 p.m. ET

Cheryl Ford has five fouls while Ruth Riley has four. With seven minutes to go in the game, both are on the bench. Yet Yolanda Griffith has not scored yet in the second half and the Shock are outscoring the Monarchs, 22-14, in the paint.

In Other News... I hear it's fun to stay at the Y.M.C.A.

Shock Take the Lead
Posted: By Matt Wurst, September 1, 2006 9:30 p.m. ET


11-0 run for Detroit, who are up by two points.

They Needed That
Posted: By Matt Wurst, September 1, 2006 9:25 p.m. ET

Biiiiig 3-pointer for Katie Smith at the buzzer with Kara Lawson right in her face to cut the Monarchs lead to six points after three. She finished with nine points in the quarter while Nolan had six to give her 15 points. 54-48, Sacramento leads. The Monarchs had 25 points in the first quarter, but have only scored 29 points in the next two periods.

How 'Bout Haynie?
Posted: By Matt Wurst, September 1, 2006 9:19 p.m. ET

"She's a Hayniac, Haaaaaaaay-ni-ac in the second haaa-alf. And she's shooting like she's never shot before" (signing, as I run furiously in place in my leggings and leotard).

11 points for the Lansing, MI. native, seven of which have come in the second half and the Monarchs have an eight-point lead yet again.

Better Late Than Never
Posted: By Matt Wurst, September 1, 2006 9:17 p.m. ET

After being held scoreless in the first half, Katie Smith has come alive here in the third quarter. She has six points in five minutes.

We Have A Game!
Posted: By Matt Wurst, September 1, 2006 9:11 p.m. ET

Deanna Nolan and Katie Smith have brought the Shock to within three points midway through the third quarter. You have to love the old schoolyard move where you see four Shock players clear out to the left and let Nolan take it to the rack.

In Other News... Is there anyone or anything more versatile than Zap, the Shock mascot? The guy skateboards, jumps on trampolines and dances. Now that's a triple threat.

Momentum Killers
Posted: By Matt Wurst, September 1, 2006 9:05 p.m. ET

Katie Smith hits the first shot of the second half for Detroit, but Kara Lawson answers on the other end. Ruth Riley then gets whistled for offensive fouls on successive Shock possessions. That's not a good way to start the comeback as the crowd is beginning to get chippy. They know what's at stake here.

Rubber Boy
Posted: By Matt Wurst, September 1, 2006 8:50 p.m. ET

Thanks, John. Too many Dasanis. Probably TMI, but I'm back just in time for the halftime performance of "Rubber Boy." These are actually the moments that bloggers live for... a boy who can bend in every possible way and twist his wiry, unitard-strapped frame into all different shapes and directions. But I cannot watch. Yet I cannot look away. No, I can't watch. Wait, I have to! Now he's in a 2'x2' box! Somebody stop the madness!

In Other News... Five years later, the Cha Cha Slide is finally catching on. All I can say is that it's about darn time.

Where's Matt?
Posted: By John Schuhmann, September 1, 2006 8:44 p.m. ET

While Mr. Wurst is off doing some investigative reporting in the bowels of The Palace, yours truly has temporarily taken over. After a bit of a lull in action, Elaine Powell hits another runner while drawing a foul. She can't complete the three-point play, but she has been a real spark off the bench for Detroit.

Kara Lawson hits from downtown and Tweety answers on the other end. That concludes the first-half scoring as the Monarchs take a nine-point lead into the break.

IMO ... Detroit is playing much better than they did on Wednesday, but the shots just aren't falling.

How Much Ya' Bench?
Posted: By Matt Wurst, September 1, 2006 8:36 p.m. ET

Elaine Powell came in and hit two jumpers in the lane for Detroit. Meanwhile, the Monarchs bench already has 13 points. If they should hold onto the lead, I smell a sidebar...

John Says...
Posted: By Matt Wurst, September 1, 2006 8:36 p.m. ET

The ever-astute John Schuhmann points out that the Monarchs' high-low passing is quite good.

What's Up, Yo
Posted: By Matt Wurst, September 1, 2006 8:28 p.m. ET

Monarchs center Yolanda Griffith, the oldest player in the WNBA, is off to a strong start. Midway through the second, she already has eight points and five rebounds and is an imposing physical force inside. The way they are banging under the glass you'd think we were at a Slipknot concert.

Fair Press
Posted: By Matt Wurst, September 1, 2006 8:21 p.m. ET

Detroit opened the second quarter pressing and immediately forced a Monarchs turnover. The Shock have picked up their defensive intensity and forced turnovers while Swin Cash is scoring on the other end to keep the Shock in the game. Cash has made four shots in a row after missing her first two and has nine points already as the Monarchs lead by five. You think she didn't take things personally the other night? She has already played more minutes than she did in all of Game 1.

After One
Posted: By Matt Wurst, September 1, 2006 8:14 p.m. ET

The Monarchs had yet another productive offensive quarter, scoring 26 points and building a seven point lead. As a team, Sacramento is shooting 52.6 percent from the floor. Meanwhile the Shock shot only 35.3 percent in the first 10 minutes and have only 17 points.

Welcome to the Finals, Swin
Posted: By Matt Wurst, September 1, 2006 8:08 p.m. ET

After a lousy Game 1, Detroit's Swin Cash finally got on the board this series, 47 minutes into the Finals. The Shock are lobbing the ball in over the Monarchs, which was exactly what Doris Burke said was one of the few ways to break through the Monarchs defense. Yet the Monarchs continue to grab offensive rebounds and are connecting on half of their shots. Kristin Haynie has been strong off the bench in the past two minutes and knocked down two shots. Sacramento has built its lead up to six.

Out and Running...
Posted: By Matt Wurst, September 1, 2006 8:02 p.m. ET

Nicole Powell gets on the board and hits her first shot, but Deanna Nolan answers and brings the Shock back to within one point of the lead. The Shock already have five fast break points, which is two more than they had in all of Game 1.

Shock Take The Lead...
Posted: By Matt Wurst, September 1, 2006 7:56 p.m. ET

The battle inside continues... Yolanda Griffith puts back an offensive rebound. Then Cheryl Ford answers back with a 3-point play. The Shock then score in transition as Plenette Pierson gives Detroit the lead. Good news for the Shock is that the Monarchs have yet to hit a 3-pointer halfway through the first quarter. Nicole Powell has yet to take a shot while Ticha Penicheiro has already taken two low-percentage shots and missed.

Game On!
Posted: By Matt Wurst, September 1, 2006 7:48 p.m. ET

Aaaaaand we're off! Katie Smith gets the tap but misses her opening 3-point attempt. The Monarchs have the first rebound of the night. How the Shock start off tonight will be key as a sluggish opening quarter on Wednesday snowballed into a 24-point loss. For the Shock, Game 2 is pretty much as "must-win" as it gets. They do not want to go to Sacramento this weekend down 0-2. Of course, the Monarchs know what is on the line and expect Detroit to bust out of the gates. The key will be to absorb the first punch, then counter punch and let the fight settle down.

Sun Cheered In Detroit
Posted: By Matt Wurst, September 1, 2006 7:32 p.m. ET

It's nice to hear the Detroit Shock fans cheer for the rival Sun players being presented with their All-WNBA trophies. These fans are knowledgeable and classy. Douglas and McWilliams-Franklin heard a nice round of applause, something they are not used to here in Detroit. Of course, they got much louder when Ford was given her trophy and thanked her fans.

Dude, You're Getting a Dell
Posted: By Matt Wurst, September 1, 2006 7:07 p.m. ET

The Monarchs have a special cheering section tonight... In the house here in Detroit tonight are former Monarchs Ruthie Bolton and Lady Grooms, as well as Grooms' daughter, Gabby, and husband, Dell.

The Admiral
Posted: By Matt Wurst, September 1, 2006 6:50 p.m. ET

Special blog greeting to Ryan Fong, the Triple Threat Fantasy Challenge Winner... WNBA.com's fantasy guru, Matt Brennan, is going to catch up with him in a bit and possibly even talk some strategy. He's got some pretty sweet seats, sitting directly adjacent to the Monarchs bench.

In Other News... No surprises in the starting lineup, though Kara Lawson will be on the court at the tip.

Ten Minutes With Donna
Posted: By Matt Wurst, September 1, 2006 5:58 p.m. ET

Some of the highlights of Donna Orender's press conference... attendance has been up since All-Star, television viewership is up and franchise growth is very much in the works as the league hopes to expand with one team per year beginning in 2008.

Five Minutes With KT
Posted: By Matt Wurst, September 1, 2006 5:20 p.m. ET

Yup, Katie Douglas' heel is still broken. She is in a giant boot that looks like she is ready for a space mission to the recently-demoted planetary mass known as Pluto. Douglas, who has been in the last two WNBA Finals, said not being involved in this year's title series is taking some time to sink in. She did not watch Game One, saying she needed some time to get away.

She is waiting another week for evaluation to see if she needs surgery on the foot. Either way, she is definitely going back overseas.

"I gotta pay the bills."

And yes, Katie's husband, who is Greek, was very excited about his country's win this morning over the United States in the World Championships.

"I had to hear all about it."

And yes, she reads this Blog and thinks I deserve a raise.

Back on the Scene
Posted: By Matt Wurst, September 1, 2006 4:53 p.m. ET

Back on the floor here at The Palace and we're just a few hours from Game Two. They will be a busy few hours, however, as WNBA President Donna Orender will deliver her annual address to the media and answer their questions. She really is a master at these things and I am really looking forward to hearing what she has to say.

Also tonight, the WNBA will honor the All-WNBA team. The winners were announced earlier today... Tamika Catchings, Diana Taurasi, Lauren Jackson, Lisa Leslie and Katie Douglas make up the first team and Sheryl Swoopes, Taj McWilliams-Franklin, Cheryl Ford, Alana Beard and Seimone Augustus fill out the second team. Unfortunately, Taurasi, Catchings, Swoopes, Beard and Augustus are training with the United States World Championship team in North Carolina. Lisa Leslie has yet to join the team as she is dealing with a family matter. Lauren Jackson is training with the Australian World Championship team.

But Taj, Katie and Cheryl will be in the house to receive their awards in person. The five stars in North Carolina will be making an appearance via videa satellite link up.

In fact, Katie and Taj are just across the way... with a few minutes to kill, you just know they want to talk with me...

Jersey Girls
Posted: By Matt Wurst, September 1, 2006 1:33 p.m. ET

The Los Angeles Sparks� Lisa Leslie, the New York Liberty�s Becky Hammon, and the Phoenix Mercury�s Diana Taurasi lead the WNBA�s list of most popular player jerseys based on sales at the NBA Store on Fifth Avenue in New York City and NBAStore.com beginning in March 2006 and ending August 26, 2006. The New York Liberty, Los Angeles Sparks and Phoenix Mercury top the league�s list of most popular team merchandise. The top 10 best-selling player jerseys and top 5 best-selling teams are listed below in order:

1. Lisa Leslie
2. Becky Hammon
3. Diana Taurasi
4. Sue Bird
5. Nykesha Sales
6. Sheryl Swoopes
7. Tamika Catchings*
8. Ticha Penicheiro
9. Swin Cash*
10. Alana Beard*

Catchings, Cash and Beard are new to the season-end top 25 player jersey list compared to 2004-05 list. Reebok was the official on-court apparel provider for the WNBA during the 2005-06 season. The NBA and the adidas Group recently announced that beginning with the 2006-07 season, adidas will become the official uniform and apparel provider for the WNBA, NBA and D-League.

In Other News... The WNBA will be announcing the All-WNBA Teams tonight at the game, and have brought in several of the players to honor them. I cannot reveal who they are just yet, but I did see one of them checking into the hotel with her husband. Unfortunately, not all of the players can be here due to USA Basketball committments.

Also, the Phoenix Mercury have announced that general manager Seth Sulka has stepped down.

You asked for it, so here it is... the Official WNBA.com Blog. "In Other News..." will be your one-stop source for all WNBA-related info and activities taking place throughout the season. From game reactions on the court to player appearances, free agency and trade rumors and college prospect tracking and anything else that falls through the net, the Blog will be updated regularly with news, links and photos. All you have to do is keep coming back to get your fill and stay in the loop. | NBA.com Blog Squad

Click and Roll: Game Two Preview Edition
Posted: By Mike Slane, September 1, 2006 10:24 a.m. ET

Don't miss tonight's crucial Game Two of the WNBA Finals at 7:30 ET on ESPN 2.

Detroit Shock coach Bill Laimbeer is demanding more from his players in Game Two, and the Monarchs, who have elevated their game during the postseason, are expecting to see a different effort from Detroit. The Monarchs grabbed home-court advantage by defeating the Shock, 95-71, in Game One.

The Shock need to play like Laimbeer used to.... box out, dive for loose balls and take advantage of their size and strength.

All is forgiven between Laimbeer, Swin Cash and Cheryl Ford just a day after the two players took verbal cracks at their coach.

Detroit will have to put all the drama of Game One behind them and test their wills if they want to snatch a crucial Game Two and remain in the series.

Detroit Pistons president Joe Dumars' favorite WNBA player is none other than Sacramento's Yolanda Griffith.

In Other News... Civic leaders from Bentonville, Arkansas want to bring a WNBA team to the booming region.

Posted: By Matt Wurst, September 1, 2006 9:52 a.m. ET

Yes, it is Friday, which means Game 2 between the Shock and Monarchs is just around the corner (7:30 p.m. ET on ESPN2). The Shock and Monarchs are doing some walkthroughs at shootaround as we speak now. As for The Palace at Auburn Hills, it will be back in basketball mode and ready to go fully in the next few hours. The Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young concert was great, but time to get back to the real business of winning rings. Thanks again to the Palace Entertainment group for opening up the suite to the WNBA.

After the concert, many of the league staff visited Birmingham once again to experience some of the local nightlife and culture and kill some time before the U.S.-Greece men's World Championship game at 3:30 a.m. this morning. The only thing better than staying up late to watch basketball in Japan with your basketball co-workers and all the White Castle you can stomach would be doing that and watching the United States win the game.

Greece shocked the American men, 101-95, in the semifinals and will play Spain, which upset Argentina later this morning. The international game has truly blossomed. It is now up to the American women to defend their title and represent our country at the Women's World Championships later this month. In the meantime, rest up for the big game tonight, catch up on some sleep and get ready for more craziness. Happy September!

In Other News... I may be wrong, but "guestimate" is not a word. Just my helpful tip for the day.

Thursday Practices
Posted: By Matt Wurst, August 31, 2006 3:02 p.m. ET

Just back from the Pistons practice facility as both the Shock and Monarchs have wrapped up practice for the day. The Shock had a quieter session, spending a lot time focusing on perimeter defense. It was a spirited session as the team talked through a number of issues and adjustments. They know they have to bring the intensity from the opening tip. But the difference between these two teams all season (and was made perfectly clear last night yet again) is that the Shock have an on/off switch. The Monarchs are just always on.

"We didn't lose last night," Shock center Kara Braxton said. "We got BLOWN OUT."

So how does one sleep after a loss like that?

"I slept okay," Riley said. "I was drained. I did not really get to nap before the game, which is something I like to do."

ESPN had called Swin Cash an x-factor prior to the series, but she was more an 0-factor (as in zero). Yet after last night's performance, she was in relatively good spirits.

"You get a little down, but it's great to have loved ones here visiting in town," she told me. "They keep me grounded and I never get too high or too low. I also got a text message from (Tamika Catchings) that went straight to a Bible verse that really meant a lot to me. It reminded me that this is really just a game. Plus, I have a short memory. "

But it was not all intense for Detroit. After practice broke, the team gathered around Plenette Pierson with cupcakes that Ruth Riley baked and all sang Happy Birthday to the Shock forward. It has become a bit of a tradition that Riley bakes for her teammates birthdays.

After a brief break after the Shock left, the Monarchs joined the fracas and met with the media before practice. Ticha Penicheiro made a special point to track me down and let me know that she is not turning 36 years old, because apparently we made a reference to that somewhere. All I can say is that it wasn't me. Perhaps Ticha is just venting after being left out of the Monarchs scoring party last night. The four other starters all scored 17 points or more, yet Ticha managed only 3 points (we'll leave out the six assists now since it is my turn to vent). But her teammates had only positive things to say...

"That's my point guard, man," Kara Lawson said. "I can't make fun of her or she might not pass me the ball."

Foiled! Though I have a feeling that if Lawson keeps shooting the way she did in Game 1, she will see the ball plenty.

In Other News... Angelina Williams wants to work for NBA TV. We may know some people, but Braxton thinks her teammate is too shy to get in front of the camera. We did a test run without a camera and she crumbled like one of the old cookies that has been sitting here in our hotel office since Monday. Getting ready for the concert... check back later.

Click and Roll: Record-Breaking Edition
Posted: By Mike Slane, August 31, 2006 10:47 a.m. ET

In case you missed it, last night the underdog Monarchs got off to a record-breaking start as they caught the Shock napping and took Game One of the WNBA Finals.

Nicole Powell powered the Monarchs to a 95-71 victory by scoring 21 points while shooting 4-for-7 from beyond the arc. Guard Kara Lawson shot 6-for-8 from three-point land as she finished with 22 points. Powell, Lawson and Walker, who dropped 17, each scored career playoff highs.

The Monarchs broke scoring records for a half and a game.

What's Shock coach Bill Laimbeer, who was confident coming into the game, think of his team's performance? "We got stomped."

Out of a list of 10 missions for Laimbeer's squad to be successful in Game One, there were eight things they didn't do,according to the Shock head coach.

Detroit's Swin Cash said she needed to elevate her game for the Finals, but all the forward did on Wednesday was grab one rebound in 11 minutes.

In Other News... Connecticut Sun guard Lindsay Whalen will serve as an administrative assistant for the University of Minnesota Gophers.

The Morning After
Posted: By Matt Wurst, August 31, 2006 9:14 a.m. ET

Practice is set to get underway in just a couple of hours at the Shock practice facility adjacent to The Palace. The arena itself is not available as the diligent crew is busy setting up for the Crosby, Still, Nash and Young concert there tonight (which we were able to score tickets to, thank you, good sirs).

It is really amazing how much work goes into setting up and deconstructing an arena for a particular event. It is way more than just moving some seats around. As we witnessed last night since we were the final people to get kicked out of the building after midnight, all of the electronics and data wiring get re-routed, entire sections of risers get moved, the court has to be delicately disassembled, all of the in-arena signage is packaged up... and then the music roadies (talk about a fun group of guys to hang out with) take over and set up the stage and their own electronics.

So now that last night's game has sunk in a bit, some other interesting notes were uncovered...The 166 combined points set a Finals record eclipsing the previous high of 161 set by the Shock and Sparks back in 2003. The 91 combined first half points and Monarchs' 53 points... yup, also records.

Nine bench points for the Shock, 15 bench points for the Monarchs... DeMya Walker had 17 points in 18 minutes, limited due to foul trouble. Only 15 turnovers for the Monarchs to the Shock's 24.

But no use looking back... it's time to get ready for Game 2. On what should be a pleasant drive north past all of the major automotive headquarters, we will head over to the practice facility, find out how everyone slept last night and hurry back by mid-afternoon since we won't have any internet access there (gasp!).

WNBA Finals Game One

Closing Out Game One
Posted: By Matt Wurst, August 30, 2006 9:48 p.m. ET

We may not have seen 100 points tonight, but we got pretty darn close. The Monarchs' 95 points in a new Finals record. Kara Lawson led Sacramento with 22 points and set a new Finals record with six made 3-pointers in the process. But the way the entire team shot the ball, there was little that the Shock could do to keep pace. The Monarchs shot a blistering 53.0 percent from the floor and from 3-point range.

Detroit narrowed the rebounding margin a bit, largely in the fourth quarter once the game was no longer in doubt. The Monarchs still outscored the Shock in the paint, 38-28, despite 25 points and 8 rebounds from Cheryl Ford. Try as they might, the Shock could just never cut the lead to a manageable margin. Coming off of a solid clinching game in the Conference Finals, Swin Cash was a non-factor and played only 11 minutes. Ruth Riley got into foul trouble early in the second half and sat the bench until the last two minutes of the game. The two were a combined 0-for-3 from the field. That is just not going to get it done.

For the Monarchs, four of the five starters scored in double figures. Lawson's 22 were nearly matched by Nicole Powell's 21 points. DeMya Walker and Yolanda Griffith scored 17 points apiece.

Monarchs assistant Tom Abatamarco told me that they can play better defensively, but praised his shooters. Of course, he is not taking anything for granted and knows that the Shock are more than capable of coming out in Game Two like gangbusters.

I never did get that chicken sandwich, but Game Two is less than 48 hours, right back here at 7:30 p.m. ET, which you can watch on ESPN2 at home.

Posted: By Matt Wurst, August 30, 2006 9:55 p.m. ET

A sound that did not come soon enough for Bill Laimbeer and his team tonight in a 95-71 opening game loss.

A New Record
Posted: By Matt Wurst, August 30, 2006 9:48 p.m. ET

The Monarchs have their nails and hammers ready to close the things out here as Griffith, Walker and Lawson continue to fire and score at will. But both sides have picked up the pace in this fourth quarter which has kept the remaining fans entertained.

Sacramento has long since surpassed and broken the previous Finals record for points in a game by a team (83, Shock against the Sparks in 2003). 100 points is back within range...

Shock Showing Some Fight
Posted: By Matt Wurst, August 30, 2006 9:38 p.m. ET

It may be too little too late at this point, but the Shock have put together a good start to the fourth quarter and cut the lead to 14-points. How are they doing it, by attacking the basket and grabbing offensive rebounds. This may be something to build on for the Shock for Game 2. If only they could have done this in the first quarter, we might have had a closer game.

Posted: By Matt Wurst, August 30, 2006 9:29 p.m. ET

Bawitdaba da bang da bang diggy diggy diggy said the boogy said up jump the boogy
Bawitdaba da bang da bang diggy diggy diggy said the boogy said up jump the boogy
Bawitdaba da bang da bang diggy diggy diggy said the boogy said up jump the boogy...

After three quarters, Monarchs still hold an 18-point lead.

Not So Fast
Posted: By Matt Wurst, August 30, 2006 9:23 p.m. ET

Sacramento has just answered with five straight points of their own. The lead is back up to 20 with just over a minute to go in the third quarter. Bill Laimbeer frequently says that the first team to reach 70 points will win the game. Well, the Monarchs just scored their 70th point and the Shock are not close.

Trimming The Lead
Posted: By Matt Wurst, August 30, 2006 9:21 p.m. ET

The Shock have scored five straight points to cut the lead to 15 points. But four Monarchs have reached double figures in scoring already, with Nicole Powell leading the way with 16 points. The frantic scoring pace from the first half has clearly settled down a bit.

Is There Anything More Exciting...
Posted: By Matt Wurst, August 30, 2006 9:15 p.m. ET

...than when a player dives into the crowd chasing a loose ball? Of course, it probably isn't too much fun for the players or the fans involved. Good hustle, Ticha Penicheiro!

Heading for the Exits?
Posted: By Matt Wurst, August 30, 2006 9:10 p.m. ET

With their beloved Shock down by 20 points still with six minutes to go in the third quarter, more than a few fans are filing towards the exits. Where are you going, people?!?! It's not over yet!

Halftime Adjustments?
Posted: By Matt Wurst, August 30, 2006 9:07 p.m. ET

It likely goes without saying that Coach Bill Laimbeer tried to rile up his players in the lockerroom at halftime, so how did his team respond? Nolan got out and running for a fast break bucket, but Nicole Powell drained another 3-pointer and gave the Monarchs their biggest lead of the game. The teams both clamped down defensively. Yet the fact remains that the Shock are no closer than they were at halftime.

First Half In the Books
Posted: By Matt Wurst, August 30, 2006 8:50 p.m. ET

The Monarchs could not be any happier with the way the first half way went. They got out to a double-digit lead and made it stick. It was as close to perfect a half for the defending champions as they could hope for on the road in an opening game of the Finals. Where have we seen this before? Oh yes, Connecticut last September.

Sacramento is winning the battles inside and shooting the lights out from the outside. In their final possession of the half, Nicole Powell chased down another offensive rebound, then nailed a 3-pointer from the corner. That just about sums the half perfectly. The Monarchs went into the lockerroom with a 53-38 lead on the strength of a 22-12 rebound advantage and a 15-5 edge in second chance points. Sacramento also shot 11-for-12 from the free throw line.

The Shock trail despite 14 points from Katie smith and 12 from Cheryl Ford. Swin Cash is 0-for-2 from the field with 0 points.

Where is the Waitress?
Posted: By Matt Wurst, August 30, 2006 8:36 p.m. ET

She is directly across the way from us with Joe and Gavin Maloof, who have made the trip to Detroit to support their Monarchs. Wow, would I love a chicken sandwich right about now. Meanwhile, the Monarchs continue to dominate the boards with a great team effort.

Building the Lead
Posted: By Matt Wurst, August 30, 2006 8:24 p.m. ET

Lawson, Walker and Haynie have helped the Monarchs build up a 13-point lead midway through the second, but the Shock keep giving Sacramento second chances at the hoop. That will not make Coach Bill Laimbeer very happy, now will it? Lawson has 13 points to go with Walker's 11. At this clip, we might see 100 points tonight, folks... and that means free philly cheesesteaks for everyone!!!

Depth Perception
Posted: By Matt Wurst, August 30, 2006 8:17 p.m. ET

The Monarchs have built up a 10-point lead less than two minutes into the second quarter as the sacramento bench has gotten into the action. Hamchetou Maiga-Ba and Rebekkah Brunson each scored inside with Griffith and Walker on the bench on successive possessions. On the other end, Kara Braxton, Swin Cash and the Shock are missing the same shots inside. Coming out of the huddle, the Monarchs are fired up about rebounding, yet come with a smaller lineup on the court.

K.L. at the Buzzer
Posted: By Matt Wurst, August 30, 2006 8:12 p.m. ET

The Shock scored five straight points to cut the lead to three points near the end of the first quarter, but Kara Lawson drilled another 3-pointer at the buzzer to give the Monarchs a 26-20 lead after one. The Shock have seven turnovers while Powell and Lawson are a combined 6-for-7 from the floor, including 4-of-5 from downtown. The Monarchs also have seven assists on their ten total field goals

Katie Smith was 2-for-2 from 3-point range in that quarter as well.

Battle of the Boards
Posted: By Matt Wurst, August 30, 2006 8:05 p.m. ET

The Monarchs are winning it early. Sacramento just had two offensive boards and three shots on the same possession, as DeMya Walker, fresh from the bench, converted a layup inside. 21-13 lead for the Monarchs with less than two minutes to go in the first quarter.

Deeeeee-troit Bas-ket-ball!!!
Posted: By Matt Wurst, August 30, 2006 8:03 p.m. ET

Sorry, I just had to say it once.

Early Foul Trouble
Posted: By Matt Wurst, August 30, 2006 8:00 p.m. ET

DeMya Walker goes to the bench with her second foul just five minutes into the game... and Yolanda Griffith just picked up her second personal foul a minute later and stays in the game.

Hot Shots
Posted: By Matt Wurst, August 30, 2006 7:58 p.m. ET

The Monarchs are really shooting well early, including a 24-foot 3-pointer from Kara Lawson, who may have also been fouled on the play. Midway through the first quarter, Sacramento is 7-for-9 from the field. The Shock, who trail by five, are shooting straight as well and have only missed one shot thus far. Yet the Shock do not have a single rebound yet in the game. That's right, five minutes played and not one rebound from the best rebounding team in the WNBA.

Picking Up Where She Left Off...
Posted: By Matt Wurst, August 30, 2006 7:52 p.m. ET

Scoring like she did in the Conference Finals, Detroit's Deanna Nolan has the first four points for the Shock, but Nicole Powell already has five quick points as the Monarchs are out to an early lead, 7-4.

And We're Off...
Posted: By Matt Wurst, August 30, 2006 7:48 p.m. ET

Katie Smith controls the tip as the 2006 WNBA Finals are under way. LET'S DO THIS!

Saying Thank You to a Legend
Posted: By Matt Wurst, August 30, 2006 7:42 p.m. ET

The WNBA announced today that retiring Houston Comets guard Dawn Staley is the recipient of the 2006 Kim Perrot Sportsmanship Award. The three-time Olympic gold medalist was interviewed via satellite and shown on the jumbotron and received thunderous applause from the Shock faithful. Classy move from the knowledgeable and appreciative fans.

Best Seats in the House
Posted: By Matt Wurst, August 30, 2006 7:29 p.m. ET

As the noisemakers are doing their job as the Eastern Conference Champion Detroit Shock take the floor, followed by the defending champion Monarchs. And not only are we courtside, but we are directly adjacent to the Monarchs bench (and right in front of the "Hayniacs"). If we don't learn a thing or two about Coach John Whisenant's techniques and tactics, we never will...

In Other News... That new Justin Timberlake song is one hot joint. How can it not fire you up? It seems to be doing the trick for Monarchs rookie Kim Smith, who has nailed ten 3-pointers in a row... and counting.

Question No. 1
Posted: By Matt Wurst, August 30, 2006 7:15 p.m. ET

Question: What's big, round, orange and full of hot air?
No, not Rick Mahorn. The correct answer is a gigantic blimp floating around the arena. What does this have to do with the WNBA Finals? That might be question No. 2.

First Look at the Opposition
Posted: By Matt Wurst, August 30, 2006 7:00 p.m. ET

Just over 30 minutes before the tip and Monarchs coaches John Whisenant and assistant Tom Abatamarco are sitting quietly incognito in the front row under the basket watching the Shock team stretch out across the floor iin a large circle. Perhaps they are sizing up their opponents or perhaps they are looking for chinks in the armor? Spies... but most definitely not like us.

Faces In The Crowd
Posted: By Matt Wurst, August 30, 2006 6:46 p.m. ET

Here in the arena for Game One... Silver Stars center Chantelle Anderson, her teammate and All-Rookie honoree Sophia Young, Sky forward Candice Dupree and Senior Director of Basketball Operations Wade Morehead.

In Other News... The fudge frosting-covered brownies are the way to go for those taking advantage of media dining this evening. I may or MAY have just inhaled nine of them. So much for my "Fall Into Fitness" regimen...

Lawson Looks Focused
Posted: By Matt Wurst, August 30, 2006 6:18 p.m. ET

Working with one of her assistant coaches dribbling and bouncing two balls at once, Monarchs guard Kara Lawson is a picture of intensity. She is going at quite the pace, hundreds of dribbles per minute. I'm getting dizzy just watching. But I can't look away.

They're Heeeere
Posted: By Matt Wurst, August 30, 2006 6:01 p.m. ET

Ruth Takes the Floor
Posted: By Matt Wurst, August 30, 2006 5:44 p.m. ET

Ruth Riley is the first player to take the court. Well, sort of. She is doing an interview with NBA TV's Andre Aldridge. Man, that guy is everywhere.

Welcome to the Palace
Posted: By Matt Wurst, August 30, 2006 5:29 p.m. ET

My name is Maaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaatt! Matt Wurst! You know you're in Detroit when Kid Rock is blasting over the in-arena sound system at unhealthy decibel levels. But we are here and set up, ready to go at The Palace of Auburn Hills. The crew is still putting the final touches on the arena and none of the players or coaches are anywhere to be seen. But that inescapable sense of excitement and history is in the air.

Driving to the arena, you wonder where Auburn Hills gets its name. This area is as flat as it gets, with the exception of a giant landfill in the distance. Could that be THE Auburn Hill? A question to be answered. It might be the hill of wires and cables sitting all around us.

It is amazing to think that all of the work it takes to set up the arena is shortlived as the same crew has to strip down the arena tonight and prepare it for a Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young concert here tomorrow night. And then it all has to come together again for Friday's Game Two.

In Other News... Speaking of history, ten years ago tonight, history was made. The Houston Comets defeated the New York Liberty, 65-51, becoming the first WNBA Champions. Regular-season MVP Cynthia Cooper, the leading scorer with 25 points, was named the Championship MVP.

Reasons to Watch Game 1
Posted: By Matt Wurst, August 30, 2006 11:38 a.m. ET

Hot: The defending champion Sacramento Monarchs' playoff record is 11-1 dating back to 2005 -- and they are undefeated this year.

Hustle: Detroit's rebounding motor is fueled by Cheryl Ford, who is coached by former Pistons defensive stalwarts Bill Laimbeer and Rick Mahorn. She set a playoff record on Aug. 24 against the Sun with 23 boards, smashing the previous high of 18 held by Lisa Leslie.

Heroes: The 2005 Finals MVP, Yolanda Griffith has stepped up in the postseason, averaging 16.5 points. ESPN's Doris Burke says she has "played as well as I've ever seen her play." Griffith was teammates with Detroit's Swin Cash and Ruth Riley on the gold medal-winning U.S. National Team at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens.

Heart: Detroit and Sacramento were two of the top three defensive teams in the league this season, holding their opponents to just 70.1 points and 70.7 points, respectively.

History: This is the first time in WNBA Finals history that both participants are No. 2 seeds. Prior to 2006, at least one of the two No. 1 seeds has always advanced to the championship series.

Hardware: Fifteen of the 22 players competing have previously won a championship ring. Five of the seven coaches on the sidelines have also won a WNBA title.

Click and Roll: Game 1 Edition
Posted: By Mike Slane, August 30, 2006 10:27 a.m. ET

Tonight at 7:30 p.m. ET at The Palace of Auburn Hills, the maturing Detroit Shock have something to prove as they look to steal the Monarchs crown in Game One of the WNBA Finals. Both teams are ready to rumble in what should be a battle in Detroit.

The Shock are led by veteran Katie Smith, who was aquired from the Lynx on July 30, 2005, and six members from their 2003 championship team.

The Maloofs think the Kings can learn some things from the Monarchs... like how to win a championship...

She may look a bit like him and definitely rebounds like him, but Cheryl Ford doesn't like to be compared to her father, 14-time NBA All-Star Karl Malone. Known for her rebounding and defense, Ford has been an unexpected offensive weapon as well this season. The Shock often run their offense through her and the Monarchs are hoping DeMya Walker can stop her in what may be the key matchup of the series.

In Other News... The Sparks may be rebuilding... Beard is back in Cameron with the U.S. women's national team... Seimone Augustus was taken to the hospital Tuesday after hitting her head on the court during practice...

Sharing a Common Passion
Posted: By Matt Wurst, August 30, 2006 9:50 a.m. ET

The sun is finally out and it looks like it will be a beautiful day here in Detroit. And with Game One of the Finals tonight, we know it will certainly be a beautiful night. The Shock have just gathered for their shootaround this morning and are doing some casual run-throughs. They spent much of the time concentrating on the Monarchs offensive sets and how to prepare defensively. The Monarchs take the court in the next half hour or so as the arena drowsily comes to life for the day. Hard to believe this place will be rocking and loud in just a few hours.

To my right, the team of ESPN broadcasters is convening more to recap last night's dinner than to prepare for the game tonight. That came yesterday. It really is interesting how well the team gets along socially as well as professionally. They really do like each other! People often ask me what I like best about WNBA games, and aside from the shorter lines at the men's rooms during games, it really is the people we get to talk to and hang out with in all aspects of the game. They come from all walks of life... Heather Cox from Boise, Idaho... Swin Cash from Pittsburgh... Doris Burke from Providence, Rhode Island... Rebecca Brutlag from the Sierra Nevadas... Ticha Penicheiro from Portugal... yet everyone shares this common passion. There's just something cool about that.

Speaking of cool (okay, I'll leave that for you to judge), the Monarchs staff, which includes public relations, communications, training and equipment staff, all rallied around the team over the weekend while back in California to get ready for the Finals and show their loyalties. They all got matching Henna tattoos on their ankles in Venice Beach. What do they say? "West Side." It goes without saying which conference they will be pulling for in this series.

In Other News... While we cannot be everywhere, the beauty of the internet allows us to take you everywhere. Down in Durham, North Carolina, the U.S. Women have taken to the court for their first practices. Check out some of the photos here.

Staff Recommendations
Posted: By Matt Wurst, August 30, 2006 8:31 a.m. ET

If you are coming to town this week for the Finals and looking for a fun, good place to go to dinner, check out Buca di Beppo. Apparently it is a national chain, but it's a jovial, fun environment for a big group. It is located in Birmingham, about 20 minutes from the arena. Birmingham happens to be a great, little town. More upscale than some of the surrounding towns, there are plenty of food options and places to shop.

For more Detroit favorites, click here.

Shock Bring Hope at Hospital Visit
Posted: By Matt Wurst, August 29, 2006 6:42 p.m. ET

Members of the Detroit Shock and the WNBA All-Rookie teams visited the Children�s Hospital of Michigan after practice today, participating in a Read to Achieve session at Pistons Reading Court in Main Lobby. It was truly a memorable afternoon for all as the Shock players also made visits to children in their rooms.

Some of the key highlights and quotes from the afternoon:

Coach Bill Laimbeer:

"Doing this event at the hospital is a great opportunity to create awareness so everyone knows that you're in the finals and also so they know that you're out there and supporting the fans."
"Events like this are a great way to get the community's support and show that you are supporting the community."
"Off the court, it's a feel good event for the players."
"The players really enjoy giving back to the community."

Tyree Mayes, Father of children participating:

"I think doing an event like this is very important so the players can connect with the community and show that they actually care."
"It's a fantastic opportunity for the [Shock players] to share the love and care for the community, and all players and teams should get on board and follow their lead."
"It our city, illiteracy can be epidemic, and I think it's great that the team is calling attention to the importance of reading."

Kaila Anderson, a young girl who participated and an avid Detroit Shock fan:

"I think the event was a lot of fun. I'm glad the players are supporting reading."

Katie Smith, Detroit Shock:

"An event like this makes you go out there and not take anything for granted."
"Being with these kids gives you an added energy, and reminds you that you've been blessed. It makes you feel ready to go out there and play and not be tired and not ever give in."
"It just pure. It's pureness at its best. The kids are loving it."
"The kids give so much more back to us than we could ever give to them."
"This organization does so much for the community, and it's a great way to get a boost before you get on the court and start playing."
"Enjoy life and live it to its fullest because the kids are doing the same, and there's no reason why we all shouldn't be doing the same."

Jennifer Azzi, WNBA legend:

"The event today was amazing. All the Read to Achieve events are so fantastic for the kids that participate."
"It teaches the kids that the athletes are great basketball players, but what really makes them successful people is their education and the fact that they read and learn on a regular basis. In the long term, that's what success is all about."
"Events like this help to put life in perspective and help players realize how privileged they are to be able to do what they're doing."

It's Reigning, It's Pouring...
Posted: By Matt Wurst, August 29, 2006 4:12 p.m. ET

Game One is almost here (tomorrow/Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. ET on ESPN2) and it's time to get our ducks in order! Yup, we even brought ducks here to The Palace at Auburn Hills and the arena is alive again. The lights are bright, the balls are bouncing, the teams are sweating and I am typing.

First up, the home team took the floor around one o'clock Eastern Time. You know, I love that we so are deep into heartland of the United States and are still in the Eastern Time Zone. That baffles me. Of course, time is just change brought about by motion through space. Or at least that's what Einstein said, though the closest we may come to Einstein this series is Shock team photographer Allen Einstein (you may recognize his name from all of the photo credits through the years) or Einstein's Bagels, where I breakfasted this morning out on Big Beaver Road.

The Palace is actually located at Four Championship Drive, which commemorates the Shock title and three Pistons championship. It was actually Two Championship Drive just three years ago, but then the teams went on their runs in 2003 and 2004 respectively. Of course, if the Shock win, they will have to change the address yet again and have all of their stationary changed. Greatness can be expensive.

When practice wrapped up, the Shock met with the media for the first time as Finalists. After about a half hour or so, the Monarchs came out to meet with the gathered press before their practice. The Monarchs arrived last night and are staying near the arena (which is more than I can say for us) and had the morning off to rest. So with an hour at my disposal, here are the seven questions I absolutely needed to have answered today (none of which had to do with the Springsteen break-up rumors denial).

When will the rain end?

We have been in Detroit for 24 hours now and the sun is nowhere to be seen. It has been raining all day and night. Perhaps the Shock really did eliminate the Sun over the weekend. According to amateur meteorologist and resident weather expert Ruth Riley... "the rain will end when the sun comes out."

When will the reign end?

The Sacramento Monarchs are the defending champions and could be only the third team in WNBA history to repeat as champions, following the Comets and Sparks. The Shock and Storm both failed in their repeat attempts, not even making it back to the Finals the next season. Monarchs typically do live in palaces, so perhaps they will feel right at home in The Palace.

"We'll see," Monarchs forward Nicole Powell said. "We are just going to get through the series and see how we do in the future."

Does practice really make perfect?

"Absolutely, practice makes perfect," Powell said. "You have to practice well to play well. It's about execution, and at this level, you do not get a lot of practice time."

Ruth Riley says no.

And Coach Laimbeer admits practicing hard physically makes no sense at this late point. "We really want to try and preserve their bodies. Practices are a lot more mental. We put in new plays, new wrinkles, talk about how to play their offense and what you can do defensively to take some things away. But the series really does not start until the first game and see what each team is going to try.

What is the one thing in Detroit I have to do before we leave?

Kara Braxton, who knows a thing or two about football players, suggests I attend the Detroit Football Classic between Florida A&M vs Delaware State. "That is going to be huge, with a million people here." She then suggested going out to eat, at a place called Calloway's.

Does experience at this level mean much since both teams have won a championship with many of the same players?

"For us, it's similar. Once again, we are the underdogs, starting two games on the road," Powell said. "We have to do the same thing we learned we could do at Connecticut last season. The pressure is on to win a game here. Experience leads to confidence.

Rick Mahorn: Man, Myth or Legend?

In his first season as an assistant coach with the Shock, Rick Mahorn has stood out. This may be because the former NBA center is 6-10, but he has also been invaluable to the Shock as a coach and mentor to Detroit's young, talented frontcourt players. He was a "Bad Boy" teammate of Coach Bill Laimbeer during the Pistons title run in 1989 and was a natural choice to join Laimbeer's staff prior to the season. He has been especially instrumental in the development of Shock reserves Plenette Pierson and Kara Braxton.

"Man and legend. A very big man," Braxton said.

"A little of all three," Riley said.

"He makes me look thinner, make me look like a better dresser and, in a minor way, to work with our post players and teach them to be a bit more physical," Laimbeer said.

"I think both of us wear the same hat," Mahorn said. "We blend together well."

Does Kara Lawson really have a ball?

Last year, Kara Lawson held onto the Game 4 ball after the Monarchs won. She had the entire team sign it and has it in her house. But BeMya Walker wants it this year if the Monarchs win. Lawson expects to get it again since she is always around the ball. This time, though, she will share it. Well, sort of. She plans to sell it to her teammate with the highest offer.

In Other News... DeMya Walker's baby is adoreable in person... Also, while it is entertaining to hear Bill Laimbeer when he is mic-ed up on television, it is even more entertaining to watch him with the a crowd. He jokingly accused our own Doris Burke of giving the Shock's game plan away to Mike Thibault last series and calls me "The League Shill." And yes, Bill, I take that as a compliment. With his own players, he is no lighter, calling out Cheryl Ford for too many ticket requests for tomorrow's game.

Click and Roll: Gearing Up For Game 1 Edition
Posted: By Mike Slane, August 29, 2006 11:07 a.m. ET

Shock focus on Monarchs... After rolling through the Fever in the first round and beating the top-seeded Sun in the conference finals, the Shock had a day to celebrate before going back to work. Detroit will practice today and hope to stay focused for tomorrow's Game One.

Of course, the Monarchs are focused too... Sacramento swept the Comets and the first place Sparks to earn their second straight WNBA Finals berth, and are now ready for the aggressive and athletic Detroit Shock.

Every game's a home game... At least for one player in the series... Michigan native and Sacramento guard Kristin Haynie will have at least two opportunities to play in front of her hometown, which has drawn some 3,000 fans in the past according to coach John Whisenant.

Heartbreaker, you got the best of me... If the Finals go to five games, the fifth and decisive game will be played at Joe Louis Arena instead of the Palace of Auburn Hills due to a scheduled Mariah Carey Concert on Wednesday, September 9.

No World Championships for Griffith... Monarchs center Yolanda Griffith has withdrawn from the 2006 USA Basketball Women's World Championships because she would like to spend more time with her daughter and give other players the opportunity to win a gold medal.

Sun still shocked... After losing Game Three of the Eastern Conference Finals on Sunday to the Detroit Shock, the Sun, who feature five All-Stars appeared to be just a regular team. The Sun shot only 31 percent on 11 assists in their final postseason game. Could it have been a lack of heart...?

Retirement...? Taj McWilliams-Franklin's responded to retirement questions by saying, "I don't like to worry about things after the season." Speaking of potential change, Katie Douglas in an unrestricted free agent. The injured guard isn't sure if she will have surgery on her right heel this upcoming offseason, but she has said she would like to return to the Sun.

No resting for LJ... Seattle Storm forward Lauren Jackson was already on the practice court just a few days after losing to the Sparks in the first round. She has been training against men, and will join the Opals for an exhibition game against the United States on on September 7.

Hanging at 16-Mile
Posted: By Matt Wurst, August 28, 2006 6:09 p.m. ET

Despite the airline delays and inclement weather across the eastern third of the nation, the WNBA.com staff has arrived in Detroit... staying up near the arena on Big Beaver Road. Practices begin tomorrow for both teams and you know we'll be there. First the Shock will take their home court at The Palace at Auburn Hills at 1 p.m. ET. The Shock will meet with the media for the first time, followed by the Monarchs taking the court to meet with the media and practice as the visitors.

The other special event of the day will take place 45 minutes or so to the south... at the Children�s Hospital of Michigan. The 2006 Eastern Conference Champion Detroit Shock will celebrate the franchise�s second appearance in the WNBA Finals by participating in a Read to Achieve session at the hospital with approximately 30 youngsters. Scheduled to attend are Katie Smith, Deanna Nolan, Ruth Riley and coach Bill Laimbeer. Also in the house will be WNBA legend Jennifer Azzi, All-Rookie honorees Candice Dupree and Sophia Young, as well as Young's Silver Stars teammate Chantelle Anderson.

In Other News... With Yolanda Griffith in the Finals, she has backed out of her committment to USA Basketball, leaving two spots open as the final training camp gets underway in North Carolina today. Cappie Pondexter (who guest blogged for us last week), Michelle Snow and college standout Candace Parker will vie for the roster spots.

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August 2006
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March - April 2006
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November - December 2005
September - October 2005

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2005 WNBA Finals
2005 WNBA All-Star Game
2004 WNBA Finals
2004 Game At Radio City