When the Sacramento Monarchs seemed ready to unravel in Game 3 of the WNBA finals, Yolanda Griffith slid into her coach’s chair during a timeout.
Whatever she barked at her teammates worked -- mostly because Griffith produced 19 points and 11 rebounds with relentless inside play as the Monarchs moved to the brink of their first championship Sunday with a 66-55 victory over the Connecticut Sun.
Kara Lawson scored 16 points and made six free throws in the final minute for the Monarchs, and Nicole Powell tied a WNBA finals record with four three-pointers, but Griffith was the difference, scoring eight points in a 15-5 run that gave Sacramento a 50-36 lead with 11 1/2 minutes left.
Connecticut rallied with 12 consecutive points in four minutes, capped by Ashja Jones’ jump shot to cut the Monarchs’ lead to two, at 55-53, with 4:18 left. But Griffith snapped her team’s five-minute scoreless skid with a layup, and Sacramento finished on a 9-0 run as Connecticut did not score in the final 3:16.
Yet, even after putting the Monarchs ahead, 2-1, in the best-of-five series, Griffith was not pleased.
“I should be happy. Am I? I don’t know,” said Griffith, who had been one victory from a title before, with the Long Beach StingRays, only to lose in a five-game series in 1998 to Columbus in the now-defunct American Basketball League. “I mean, I’m just not satisfied, because I know we can play better ball.”
Game 4 is Tuesday night here at Arco Arena, where the Monarchs hope to wrap up the best season in franchise history with a title. Griffith made seven of 12 shots, but the rest of her team connected on only 17 of 52 (32.7%). Yet the Monarchs made only seven turnovers and overcame the Sun’s final rally with their signature defense, which frustrated Connecticut into 16 turnovers and 40.4% shooting.
Said Connecticut Coach Mike Thibault: “I guess I’m not much of a prognosticator, because I thought we would play our best game of the series today, and we played our worst. They’re disruptive [on defense], but by this point in the series, we should be able to better handle it.”
Taj McWilliams-Franklin had 16 points and 13 rebounds for the Sun but went scoreless in the final 7:18.
Sun point guard Lindsay Whalen, who sat out Game 2 for Connecticut because of a sprained ankle and a leg injury, scored two points and made five turnovers in 22 minutes. She sat out down the stretch, and her absence hurt when backup Jamie Carey missed an open fastbreak layup with 1:49 left.
“It’s not about basketball, it’s about concentration and mental things,” said the Sun’s Katie Douglas, who had only six points on two-for-seven shooting.
“We’re going to have to fix that.”
CONNECTICUT vs. SACRAMENTO
Monarchs lead best-of-five series, 2-1
(all times Pacific)
* GM 1: Sacramento 69, at Connecticut 65
* GM 2: at Connecticut 77, Sacramento 70 (OT)
* GM 3: at Sacramento 66, Connecticut 55
* Tuesday: at Sacramento, 5 p.m., ESPN2
* Thursday: at Conn., 4:30 p.m., ESPN2*