New era, same result.
After undergoing a major renovation in the offseason that included drafting Diana Taurasi, the Mercury figured to get the season started with a victory Thursday night.
Instead, just like last year's season opener, the Mercury fell to the Sacramento Monarchs at America West Arena, losing 72-66 in front of 10,493.
"Obviously, it's not the start we wanted," said Mercury first-year coach Carrie Graf. "When we go out there, we want to go out and win ball games. We've got a long way to go. We're young. Our growth is going to be exponential. We did some good things defensively that we hadn't done in the preseason. There are some positive signs, but obviously when you play in this league, you're playing to get some wins."
Taurasi, the top pick in last month's WNBA draft, certainly did her part before fouling out with 34 seconds left. She scored 22 points — one short of the league's rookie pro debut record. She blocked three shots. She grabbed three rebounds and recorded three assists. Taurasi even banked in a shot from 52 feet at the halftime buzzer.
"It felt good. The crowd was energetic. I think we came out there focused," Taurasi said. "We just fell a little short. Overall, it was a good experience."
Besides Taurasi, the Mercury only had one other player in double figures. Veteran Penny Taylor, also a newcomer, scored 21 points. Last year's leading scorer, Anna DeForge, failed to score and missed all seven of her shots.
As expected, inside play was the Mercury's glaring weakness. Time and again, the Mercury were battered inside by Monarchs forwards Yolanda Griffith, Chantelle Anderson and DeMya Walker. The Monarchs finished with a 34-23 rebounding advantage.
"The boards I think was the biggest thing," said Graf. "We got smashed on the glass and couldn't compete there. When you're not rebounding against a team like that, you're going to be in trouble."
The Mercury also had trouble taking care of the ball, particularly when Taurasi switched from point guard to shooting guard. Phoenix finished with 19 turnovers, four of them by Taurasi. Phoenix trailed 35-29 at intermission, but opened the second half with a 9-1 run to go up three points, 40-37.
Sacramento then scored the next two baskets and never trailed again. With 1:20 left, the Monarchs held a nine-point lead. Two Adrian Williams free throws and a 3-pointer by Tamara Moore pulled the Mercury to within four, but they got no closer.
Taurasi, who wasn't accustomed to losing in her career at the University of Connecticut, seemed to take the loss in stride.
"That's life," Taurasi said. "Especially when you play in the WNBA where every team you play is a good team. If you don't play really good every night, you'll come a little short like we did today. "Like coach Graf said, I thought we showed a lot of improvement defensively. Offensively, we're going to start coming around."
Griffith led Sacramento with 17 points and nine rebounds.
The Mercury return to action Saturday at 1 p.m. at Connecticut in a game which will be televised live on ABC.