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First Look: WNBA Finals

September 11, 2003|Mike Terry

Here is a look at how the Los Angeles-Detroit best-of-three series matches up:

GUARDS -- Nikki Teasley and Tamecka Dixon vs. Deanna Nolan and Elaine Powell. Nolan, averaging 15 points in the playoffs, had a horrific fall in the Eastern Conference clincher against Connecticut and sustained a bruised pelvis. She is listed day-to-day although Coach Bill Laimbeer said Wednesday he expects her to start. Powell (6.0 points) can force her offense at times. Teasley (8.7 points) still needs prodding to shoot but is averaging an eye-popping 9.3 assists. Dixon needs no prodding but was hampered by an injured right eye in the Sacramento series.

Advantage: Sparks, if Nolan can't play.

FORWARDS -- DeLisha Milton and Mwadi Mabika vs. Swin Cash and Cheryl Ford. Ford, the 2003 rookie of the year, is averaging the same 10 points and 10 rebounds in the playoffs that she did during the regular season. Milton (10.7 points, 5.0 rebounds), can disrupt Ford's scoring but gives up 40 pounds in the battle on the boards. Mabika (16.0 points, 5.3 rebounds) and Cash (17.5 points, 7.5 rebounds) are the key and marquee matchup in the series. Whoever has the hot hand will lead their team to victory.

Advantage: Even.

CENTER -- Lisa Leslie vs. Ruth Riley. Leslie (22.3 points, 6.3 rebounds) may win a third playoff most-valuable-player award no matter what happens; that's how good and how valuable she has been to the Sparks. Riley (11.5 points, 6.5 rebounds) made big strides this season to becoming the kind of dominant post player many observers thought she could be coming out of Notre Dame.

Advantage: Sparks.

COACHES -- Michael Cooper vs. Bill Laimbeer. Although Cooper was a Laker and very proud of it, he was ornery enough to have been a Bad Boy Piston. Laimbeer was a Bad Boy with the Pistons. Each team has taken on the personality of its coach. Cooper's lone edge is he has two championship rings from this league; Laimbeer is trying to get his first.

Advantage: Sparks.

ANALYSIS: No WNBA team has won a league championship on the road. The Sparks will have to be the first if they want to three-peat, because Games 2 and 3 are scheduled for Detroit. Everyone keeps waiting for the Shock to wake up and remember how young they are, but Detroit is wearing the "destiny" label like latex gloves. Cooper said before the season that whoever won this year's WNBA championship would really earn it. If the Sparks win again, no truer words were uttered in 2003.

Prediction: Sparks in three.

--Mike Terry


Game 1 -- Friday at Staples Center, 5 p.m., ESPN2

Game 2 -- Sunday at Detroit, 1 p.m., Channel 7

Game 3 (if necessary) -- Tuesday at Detroit, 5 p.m., ESPN2

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