Comets Shine In WNBA Opener

Comets' Tina Thompson, left, and the Liberty's Sue Wicks battle for a loose ball.

First, the Houston Comets took a moment remember a late teammate and raise another WNBA championship banner. Then, they made the New York Liberty forget about "the shot."

Cynthia Cooper became the first player in league history to break the 2,000-point mark and Sheryl Swoopes had 27 points Monday as the three-time champion Comets defeated New York 84-68 in the season opener.

In a tearful pre-game ceremony, the Comets raised their third straight WNBA championship banner inscribed "No. 3 for No. 10" in honor of Comets point guard Kim Perrot, who lost her fight with cancer last Aug. 19.

"I'm glad it's over, I was very nervous about this one," Swoopes said. "I knew there were going to be jitters and you could tell that at the start when we couldn't buy a basket.

"That is the mark of a good team. We shook them (nerves) and got it going."

Cooper entered the game with 1,987 career points. A 3-pointer with 13:25 to play put her over 2,000 for her career. She finished with 19 and has 2,006.

"It was good to come back and play hard after that kind of slow start," Cooper said. "We knew New York would come out and play tough and they would be on their game."

The game was a rematch of the 1999 WNBA championship series which the Comets won in three games. New York guard Teresa Weatherspoon's 50-foot shot at the buzzer in Game 2 gave the Liberty a 68-67 victory and forced the deciding game.

"We've heard all this talk about `the shot' but you know, I don't remember the shot because we won the championship," Swoopes said.

Swoopes got the Comets started in the first half, and the defending champions led 40-33 at halftime. They built a 66-50 lead with 10:28 to play before the Liberty made their final charge with a 10-0 run, cutting the margin to 66-60 with 7:44 left.

But the Comets recovered before a sellout crowd of 16,285.

Swoopes also had three blocked shots and six rebounds.

Tamika Whitmore led the Liberty with 15 points, while Sue Wicks had 14.

"I don't think we were very aggressive at the start but that's what got us going," Comets coach Van Chancellor said. "I think the emotions got to us early but we turned on the defense and that got us going offensively."

The Comets started 2-for-13 from the field before Swoopes heated up with 15 first-half points and rallied the Comets to the halftime lead, their biggest to that point.

Trailing 21-15, the Comets went on a 13-2 run with Swoopes scoring nine consecutive points with a steal and layup, two free throws, a 3-pointer and two more free throws.

"We played better than I expected," Liberty coach Richie Adubato said. "We need to find someone to rebound. If we can rebound, we can be a good team."

Weatherspoon had 11 points and was disappointed with the start.

"I expected us to be in it the whole time becaue we have the people to step it up against them but I'm disappointed," Weatherspoon said. "You don't practice 12 hours a day to lose.

"It was a good game down to the wire. They did get some open shots that we shouldn't have let them have."

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