Final

Sun 59

(26-8, 12-5 away)

    Coverage: ESPN2/WatchESPN

    8:00 PM ET, September 20, 2005

    1 2 3 4 T
    CONN 31 28 59
    SAC 25 37 62

    Top Performers

    Connecticut: K. Douglas 15 Pts, 7 Reb, 4 Ast, 3 Stl

    Sacramento: Y. Griffith 14 Pts, 10 Reb, 2 Stl

    Connecticut at Sacramento 8:00 pm EDT

    SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- If Yolanda Griffith can lead Sacramento to one more victory in the WNBA Finals, the franchise will have its first championship -- and Griffith, the Monarchs' scowling star, finally might get the respect she deserves.

    FULL FINALS RUNDOWN
    For ESPN.com's complete coverage of the 2005 WNBA Finals, check out the following links:

    Game 4 preview:
    • Monarchs on brink of title
    • Voepel: Rooks follow queen

    Game 3 recap:
    • Monarchs one win from throne • Lawson's order | ESPN Motion
    • Dish: Walker's redemption

    Game 2 recap:
    • Sun even series with OT win
    • Wyckoff 3 saves Sun | ESPN Motion
    • Dish: Pressure's on forwards
    • Hobbled Whalen sits out

    Game 1 recap:
    • Sun ranSac'd at home | ESPN Motion
    • Voepel: Sun flame out
    • Dish: Whalen not enough

    Series preview:
    • Series breakdown by position
    • WNBA Finals: Fact or Fiction
    • Playoff schedule
    • WNBA.com's playoffs coverage

    Griffith, the sharp-elbowed power forward known for those dour looks as much as her superb low-post game, already has carried the Monarchs to the Western Conference's best record and the longest postseason run in Sacramento history.

    She had 19 points and 11 rebounds in the Monarchs' 66-55 victory over the Connecticut Sun in Game 3. Up 2-1, Sacramento can end the series with a victory in Game 4 tonight (ESPN2, 8 ET) -- and after waiting seven years for the chance to be on the WNBA's biggest stage, Griffith isn't about to waste it.

    "Even though we're playing at home, nothing is guaranteed,'' Griffith said. "You've got to stay focused. You've got to execute offensively. You've got to shut players down defensively. … Tuesday's game is a must-win.''

    Griffith is averaging 20 points -- six more than her regular-season average -- and 9.7 rebounds in the Finals despite the defensive efforts of Connecticut's Taj McWilliams-Franklin, her rival since both players' days in the defunct ABL.

    Though she's not nearly as well-known as the more glamorous WNBA stars or many of her Olympic teammates, Griffith's relentless inside play and hard-nosed attitude have defined the Monarchs and their roster of relative unknowns.

    Coach John Whisenant's game plan is built on defensive suffocation, with the 35-year-old Griffith and eight-year veteran Ticha Penicheiro leading the way in three mostly superb WNBA Finals games.

    So how has Griffith been able to rise to another level in the series?

    "I'm playing defense on her, so I don't know if I want to answer that,'' McWilliams-Franklin said. "Yo's a great player. She always has been. Me and Yo have been doing battle since the ABL, so I know her game a lot better than a lot of the other players, so that's probably why [coach Mike Thibault] puts me on her.''

    The Monarchs are relying heavily on Griffith in the finals, and when they forget to make Griffith their first option, the Sun have succeeded. Sacramento led Game 3 by 14 points midway through the second half, but began settling for outside shots while Connecticut cut its deficit to two.

    Griffith then made a layup to stop the Sun's 12-0 run, and she grabbed a key offensive rebound off a missed free throw in the final minute to seal the victory.

    "That was so huge, but that's Yo,'' said Kara Lawson, who scored 16 points in a reserve role in Game 3. "Everybody knows what she means to this team. She's the center of what we do.''

    Griffith's will and attitude have been among the few deciding factors in an evenly matched series. That's no surprise to anyone who knows Griffith, who supported her then-newborn daughter, Candace, by repossessing cars while in junior college in Florida in 1990.

    She has played in Russia and Germany during her American leagues' offseasons, and she earned a spot on the last two U.S. Olympic teams. A WNBA title is Griffith's only remaining goal -- and her teammates know she won't be satisfied unless they raise their games to match her.

    Connecticut has kept it close in all three games, but point guard Lindsay Whalen's leg injuries have hurt the Sun's late-game execution. Whalen made five turnovers in 23 ineffective minutes in Game 3, and her backups struggled to run Thibault's offense.

    The Sun weren't intimidated by 14,000 screaming fans at Arco Arena, but McWilliams-Franklin and her teammates must win to send the series back to Connecticut for Game 5 on Thursday.

    "We are evenly matched teams, but I feel that our team can definitely win,'' said Connecticut's Brooke Wyckoff, who hit the tying 3-pointer in Game 2. "It's always going to come down to the little things, so if we do those as well and not make any mistakes, we can take it back to Connecticut.''

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