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To win the WNBA title, the New York Liberty must defeat the Houston Comets as many times as they've lost at home in the last two years.

The Comets were 45-7 at home while winning the first two WNBA championships and advancing to the final round this year. They are 17-1 this season, including two playoff victories over Los Angeles, and 34-2 the last two years.

Following Thursday night's 73-60 victory by the Comets over the Liberty at Madison Square Garden, Houston has a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three series. Game Two is Saturday at Compaq Center, with Game Three there on Sunday, if necessary.

Leading the Comets once again is Cynthia Cooper, who matched her championship record with 29 points against the Liberty.

"Give the ball to Cooper and let her work her magic," said Houston coach Van Chancellor, the WNBA's coach of the year. "Then sit back and reap the rewards. That's what I do best as a coach."

The Comets, the top defensive team in the league, held New York to 26 percent shooting in the first half before a championship-record crowd of 17,114 at Madison Square Garden.

Cooper, the WNBA's top scorer, had 20 points in the second half. She finished 8 for 16 from the field and made all 10 free throws as the Comets shot 44 percent.

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