Cynthia Cooper is doing her best to end her WNBA career with a fourth consecutive title.
Cooper, who plans to retire after the season, scored 25 points as the three-time defending champion Houston Comets opened the playoffs Saturday with a 72-64 victory over the Monarchs before 8,053 at Sacramento.
"Many things have been said by other people, but the decision is mine," Cooper said. "I'm retiring at the end of this season."
Game 2 of the best-of-three series is Monday night at Houston. If necessary, a third game will be Tuesday at Houston. The Comets are 11-3 in the playoffs in the four-year history of the league.
The Comets trailed by as many as 11 points in the first half and led by only 58-57 late in the game. But Cooper made a three-point shot and added a 16-foot jump shot to make the score 63-57 with 2:32 remaining. "With four minutes left I was ready to read them the riot act," Houston Coach Val Chancellor said. "But then we turned it around. That's where we won the game."
Cooper was nine for 20 from the field and made five of six free throws. This came after scoring a career-low four points in her last game, and only six points in the game before that.
Of Cooper, Sacramento Coach Sonny Allen said, "I don't think she will retire, but I wish she would. I hope she keeps her word."
Sheryl Swoopes had 13 points for Houston and Tina Thompson 10 points and seven rebounds.
Ruthie Bolton-Holifield scored 16 points for Sacramento. Tangela Smith had 13 and Ticha Penicheiro 12 before fouling out. Yolanda Griffith had 11 points and 14 rebounds.
New York 72, Washington 63--Center Tari Phillips and forward Vickie Johnson each scored 20 points to lead the Liberty over the Mystics in an Eastern Conference playoff opener at Washington.
A crowd of 16,331, including part-owner Michael Jordan, watched the first playoff game in franchise history.
The crowd was quieted as the Liberty dominated early, making their first five shots to take a 12-2 lead. New York led by as many as 18 in the first half before the Mystics closed to 40-28 at halftime.
The Mystics, relying on a full-court pressure defense installed by interim coach Darrell Walker, tied the score at 53-53 with 5:45 to play and trailed 62-61 with 2:17 to play. But the Liberty scored 10 of the last 12 points.
The top-seeded Liberty will play host to the Mystics for Game 2 Monday night and, if necessary, for Game 3 Tuesday.
Johnson was seven for 11 from the field and also had eight rebounds. Phillips was eight for 14 with seven rebounds, and Teresa Witherspoon had nine assists.
Vicky Bullet led Washington with 22 points and five blocks. Nikki McCray had 15 points and 11 rebounds.