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Silver Stars-Monarchs Preview

Sep 10, 2009 - 4:18 AM By ALAN FERGUSON STATS Writer

San Antonio (14-18) at Sacramento (11-21), 10:00 p.m. EDT

Last season, the San Antonio Silver Stars clinched a playoff berth in early September.

The Silver Stars will likely need all of the regular season to make it into this year's playoffs, and they will try to close in on that berth Thursday night against the host Sacramento Monarchs.

San Antonio (14-18) comes in tied with Minnesota for the Western Conference's final playoff spot and owns the tiebreaker.

After facing the Monarchs, the Silver Stars play Seattle at home Saturday night. The Lynx travel to Los Angeles on Friday and to Sacramento on Sunday in the WNBA's regular season finale.

A year after winning its first conference title in franchise history and falling to Detroit in the league finals, San Antonio has endured inconsistent play, and that's been most evident over the past nine games.

Following a 106-89 win over West-leading Phoenix on Aug. 15, the Silver Stars lost a season-high four straight but bounced back to win a season-best three in a row before Tuesday night's 76-68 defeat in Los Angeles.

San Antonio has averaged 94.8 points in its past four wins and 74.2 points in its past five losses.

Leading scorer Becky Hammon hasn't escaped that trend of inconsistency.

On Aug. 9, she was the league's top scorer (21.2 ppg) and had recorded six straight games with 20 or more points - including a career-high 38 in a 101-93 overtime loss in Sacramento on July 30.

Since then, the All-Star guard has averaged 15.8 points over the last 11 games.

Hammon began that stretch with 11 points in a 3-of-10 performance in the previous meeting with Sacramento, a 90-73 home loss. She has 23 points on 35.0 percent shooting in the past two games after scoring 61 points and shooting 60.0 percent in the previous two contests.

Hammon remains fourth in the league (19.2 ppg) just ahead of teammate Sophia Young (18.3 ppg). Young, however, has scored 11.7 points per game in three contests this month.

Vickie Johnson, who has two regular season games remaining in her career, has averaged 17.3 points over the past three contests and earned player of the week honors for the first time in 13 seasons to begin this month.

"I knew at the end of the season, I'd be healthy and strong enough to help my team in a big way," she said.

To move back in front of idle Minnesota, the Silver Stars will try to even the season series at 2-2. They opened last year's playoffs with a win in Sacramento and eliminated the Monarchs for the second straight season in three games.

Sacramento (11-21), which will miss its first postseason since 2002, had a three-game home win streak snapped with 98-90 loss to Atlanta on Friday.

Nicole Powell, the Monarchs' leading scorer (16.3 ppg), scored 23, and DeMya Walker had 19 points for the second straight game.