SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Ticha Penicheiro remembers the entire surreal scene. Cheers, confetti, leaping hugs — everything that goes with the thrill of celebrating a championship last year on the Sacramento Monarchs' home court.
"It was a once-in-a-lifetime thing," the point guard recalled. "Only we could do it twice."
The Monarchs can win their second straight championship with a victory in Game 4 of the best-of-five WNBA Finals against the beleaguered Detroit Shock tonight. A sellout crowd at Arco Arena will expect nothing less, and many buildings in California's capital are decorated with purple lights and supportive signs.
The Shock seemed demoralized after Sacramento's 89-69 win in Game 3, with volatile Detroit coach Bill Laimbeer ripping players who seemed disinterested or overmatched in the second half.
"Their backs are up against the wall," Penicheiro said. "We don't even want to think that we have another chance if we lose."
Game 5, if necessary, would be Saturday in Detroit.
Laimbeer, a former NBA player, was fined $500 by the league for his criticism of officials after Game 3.
On Tuesday, Laimbeer's prime target was ESPN2.
"I just hear from our family and friends back home that, 'Boy, ESPN is killing you guys,' " Laimbeer said. " 'And [broadcasters Nancy] Lieberman and Doris Burke are just trashing you left and right.' Not only me, but also some of our players on our ballclub."
Laimbeer is taking a stand tonight. He has refused to wear a live microphone during the ESPN2 telecast because he said the network had used snippets of what he had said on the bench to "create controversy or slam people."
|Monarchs lead best-of-five series 2-1. All games on ESPN2.|
||Sacramento 95, Detroit 71|
||Detroit 73, Sacramento 63|
||Sacramento 89, Detroit 69|
||Today @ Sacramento
||Sat. @ Detroit
|* — if necessary.|