Originally created 08/29/98

WNBA title for Phoenix with win Saturday



HOUSTON -- After breezing through the regular season and sweeping through the opening playoff round, the Houston Comets finally face a must-win game.

It comes on Saturday when the Comets play host to Phoenix in Game 2 of the WNBA Finals. Lose and Houston's season is over.

"They're in the driver's seat," Houston's Kim Perrot conceded Friday. "We know we have everything to lose."

The Mercury moved within a game of taking the Comet's title by defeating the defending champions 54-51 in the opener of the best-of-3 finals Thursday night in Phoenix.

A Comets victory Saturday afternoon would set up a deciding game Tuesday night, also in Houston.

"It's very frustrating for myself, I'm very nervous," the Comets' Sheryl Swoopes said Friday. "We know what we've got to do."

"There is inherent pressure in that alone," Houston center Monica Lamb said of the prospect of being ousted Saturday. "So we are not putting any added pressure on ourselves. We know what we have to do, and we are more than capable of doing what we have to do."

The Comets this season have a history of bouncing back.

After each of their losses en route to a league-best 27-3 record, they won the following game by a double-digit margin, including a 45-point blowout of Washington following an Aug. 15 loss at New York.

"We will have our hands full," Phoenix coach Cheryl Miller predicted.

"We all know that Houston is going to turn up their game at home, and we need to lessen our turnovers and do a better job of containing (Cynthia) Cooper," the Mercury's Bridget Pettis said.

Cooper, selected this week as the WNBA's most valuable player for the second consecutive season, topped the Comets Thursday night with 29 points. But no other Houston player scored more than eight points.

"I don't think Phoenix did anything to beat us," Swoopes said. "We beat ourselves."

Miller, whose Mercury are the only team to defeat the Comets more than once this year, agreeed.

"We got lucky," she said Friday before putting her team through a brief workout. "I'm nervous. Nobody's relaxed in this atmosphere."

The Comets, the WNBA's highest-scoring team, shot just 32 percent in the loss at Phoenix. The 51 points Thursday was a season low.

"Hopefully, that was our last off night," Cooper said. "It's time to put up or shut up. I'm ready to play. Everybody is ready to play.

"The reality is we're down 1-0. We've got to come back."



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