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Sparks Seek Psychological Edge

L.A. has had the upper hand in the playoffs against Sacramento with another series looming.

September 05, 2003|Mike Terry | Times Staff Writer

Tamecka Dixon can hardly wait to hear the first cowbell clang through Arco Arena tonight, signaling the start of the Spark-Monarch series to determine the Western Conference champion.

Take that back. She can wait. And wait. And wait.

Between cowbells, clappers and fans chanting "Beat LA!," it has all the makings of a Laker-King game.

Tonight's game still is Sacramento vs. Los Angeles and all the baggage that comes with any North-South confrontation.

"People there hate us like they hate the Lakers," Dixon said. "It's gonna be fun."

Fun might be the last word used to describe what is expected to be a hard-fought series, with the survivor advancing to the WNBA finals next week.

Besides being L.A., the Sparks represent the same kind of psychological obstacle for the Monarchs that Houston was for the Sparks until Los Angeles began its championship run two years ago.

In 1999, the Sparks and Monarchs squared off in the postseason for the first time, a first-round one-game playoff. Los Angeles won, 71-58.

In 2001, the Sparks and Monarchs met in the Western Conference finals. The Sparks won the series, 2-1, an outcome Michael Cooper said he thinks is still in the minds of Sacramento players.

"That year they probably thought it was their turn to win the championship," the Spark coach said. "I think they're kind of tired of coming in second place. I'm sure they felt if they were going to get to the WNBA finals they had to go through LA. And we thought [the road to the title] went through Sacramento. And it will be a dog fight to the end."

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