Monarchs 95, Shock 71
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- The Sacramento Monarchs played as though they have every intention of retaining the WNBA title.
They dominated the Detroit Shock in Game 1, but know it's not time to pop open champagne bottles.
"That's only one game and we've got to win two more -- somewhere," Sacramento coach John Whisenant said.
With a record-breaking performance, the Monarchs beat Detroit 95-71 Wednesday night.
Kara Lawson scored 22 points, Nicole Powell had 21, and DeMya Walker added 17 -- each reaching career playoff highs -- to help the Monarchs set WNBA finals records for points in a game and in a half.
Lawson was 6-of-8 from 3-point range, surpassing another finals record for shots made from beyond the arc, but said playing effective defense was as much of a key.
"When we do both, we are pretty unstoppable," she said.
The Monarchs were much more aggressive from the start, beating Detroit inside for easy baskets and moving the ball around for wide-open 3-pointers. At the other end of the court, they swarmed to get into the passing lane and to contest shots.
"Everybody is coming out there with a vengeance. I'm not really surprised with my team," said Powell, who made four of seven 3-pointers and had three steals. "It's really special when everybody steps up their game."
Shock guard Katie Smith was disappointed with her team's effort and lack of poise.
"We got a little frustrated and tried to force some things offensively," she said. "And defensively, they picked us apart."
Sacramento and Detroit combined for a finals-record 166 points.
"I'm tickled to death," Sacramento coach John Whisenant said. "We got home court back, and that was our goal."
Game 2 is Friday night at The Palace in suburban Detroit before the best-of-five series shifts to Sacramento.
"We have to win Game 2 or we're in a world of trouble," Shock coach Bill Laimbeer said.
The Monarchs' high-scoring trio had at least 11 points each to help Sacramento score a record 53 points in the first half and lead by 15. They helped Sacramento close strong and break Detroit's record of 83 points in the Game 3 clinching victory over the Los Angeles Sparks in 2003.
The Monarchs led by as much as 21 in the third quarter and coasted to the victory.
"It was like a never-ending, uphill battle," Smith said.
Cheryl Ford led the Shock with a career playoff-high 25 points, Smith had 21, and Deanna Nolan added 14. They didn't get much help, scoring 60 of the Detroit's 71 points. Swin Cash was scoreless in 11 minutes, and Ruth Riley had just two points in 15 minutes.
"If you guard people and play defense, you're always going to have a chance to win," said Whisenant, whose team caused 24 turnovers. "That's what we did."
In the first matchup of previous champions, the Monarchs got off to the same start they did last year by winning the first game on the road against Connecticut.
"The way we look at it, we have the opportunity to win Game 2 and really put a hold on the series," Lawson said. "I think having the experience of last year, winning Game 1 and not being able to come away with Game 2, there is not too much satisfaction in the locker room right now. We are still really focused."
Detroit scored the first basket, and that was its highlight of the night.
Sacramento used eight players in the first quarter, taking a 26-20 lead with Lawson, Powell and Walker scoring eight apiece.
The Monarchs led 53-38 at halftime -- surpassing Houston's record of 48 in the second half in a 1998 finals game. Sacramento led 70-52 entering the fourth quarter and didn't have to hold off Detroit, which seemed to lack energy from the start.
"We didn't compete on the level we needed to and we got stomped," Laimbeer said. "We won't make any excuses. We have none. Our performance was poor and I give Sacramento credit."
Sacramento's Yolanda Griffith scored 17, and five other players scored at least three points. ... Monarchs owners Joe and Gavin Maloof sat in the front row, across from their team's bench, and Shock owner Bill Davidson was in his usual baseline seat next to Detroit's reserves. ... If Game 5 is necessary, it will be at Joe Louis Arena because the Shock's home arena is booked for a Mariah Carey concert. ... Lawson was drafted by Detroit in 2003 but didn't play for the Shock because she was traded to Sacramento for Kedra Holland-Corn, a Detroit reserve.