UNCASVILLE, Conn. — Yolanda Griffith made the most of her first appearance in the WNBA Finals, scoring 25 points Wednesday night as the Sacramento Monarchs beat the Connecticut Sun 69-65 to take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-five series.
The Monarchs lost both regular-season meetings but used a strong inside game, anchored by Griffith, to hand Connecticut a rare home loss. The Sun, making their second straight appearance in the finals, had lost only three games all year at the Mohegan Sun arena coming in. Game 2 is Thursday night in Connecticut.
The home crowd got into it early when Lindsay Whalen was announced for the starting lineup for Connecticut. The star point guard suffered a broken bone in her left knee during the Eastern Conference finals on Saturday and was questionable for this series. The 8,200 fans erupted when Whalen ran onto the floor through bright orange jets of fire.
However, Griffith had the strong shooting touch in the end. The league's leading offensive rebounder, Griffith was 11-of-17, mostly on inside and second-chance buckets, and finished with a team-high nine boards.
"This is my first time in the finals, and it might not happen next year, so I've got to give it all I got," Griffith said.
Matched up most of the game against Connecticut's 7-foot-2 center Margo Dydek, Griffith time and again shot over Dydek's long reach or beat her on the baseline.
Nykesha Sales led the Sun with 23 points. Her 3-pointer with 1:26 left in the game pulled Connecticut to within three at 66-63. The Sun had a chance to tie it on their next possession but Whalen missed a wide-open 3 from the right wing, and the Monarchs hit 3-of-4 from the line to ice the game.
Nicole Powell, who won the league's most improved player award, finished with 10 points that included a pair of 3s.
Katie Douglas scored 14 points for Connecticut, Taj McWilliams-Franklin had 10 rebounds and Dydek finished with four blocks.
Whalen played 25 minutes without a turnover and finished with seven points. Sales had 12 points in the first half, and the Sun led by as many as seven points in the period. But Sacramento quickly closed the gap with an 8-2 run in the closing minutes. Griffith's layup with 4:17 left pulled the Monarchs to within one at 26-25.
Whalen then intercepted Ticha Penicheiro's pass in the paint to kick off a fastbreak and found Douglas on the wing, who nailed a 3-pointer to give the Sun a 31-27 lead at the break.