Seimone Augustus scored 19 points to lead the Minnesota Lynx before leaving with an injury to her ribs, and the defending WNBA champions didn't let up in a 105-83 season-opening victory over the Diana Taurasi-less Phoenix Mercury on Sunday.
The MVP of last year's finals was hurt late in the third quarter when she leaped to save a loose ball and landed with her midsection on top of a courtside seat. Augustus stayed down on her knees for a few minutes, hunched over in the laps of a couple of fans as head athletic trainer Chuck Barta tended to her. After walking off on her own, she prompted a hearty cheer when she came back to the bench in the fourth quarter with the Lynx still comfortably ahead.
Lindsay Whalen had 10 of her 13 points in the final 11 minutes and backup Monica Wright added 15 in front of the announced sellout crowd of 12,611 that watched the Lynx receive their championship rings before tipoff.
With Taurasi out due to a strained left hip flexor, the Mercury missed the league's scoring leader in each of the last four seasons. Charde Houston, sent to the Mercury in a winter trade with the Lynx, scored 24 points against her old team.
DeWanna Bonner had 22 points, Candice Dupree added 13 and rookie Samantha Prahalis 12 in her WNBA debut, but the fast-paced Mercury were done in by familiar weaknesses - not enough defense or depth. The Lynx reserves outscored the Mercury's 40-8.
The Lynx passed the 100-point mark five times in 42 games last season, including the playoffs, and three of those came against the Mercury, who allowed a league-most 86 points per game last year.
The Lynx outscored the Mercury 36-23 in the second quarter and finished at 57.1 percent shooting from the field (44 for 77). With nine of their 11 players back from last season, plus third overall draft pick Devereaux Peters coming off the bench to play in the post, they look every bit the dominant team they became last summer. Ten of the league's 12 general managers picked the Lynx as favorites to win this year's title.
After getting their rings and hugs from team owner Glen Taylor and seeing the championship banner unveiled above the court, the Lynx started sluggishly but quickly recovered. The strength of their chemistry was obvious, with each player knowing where her teammates want the ball and feeding off each other well.
On one fast break, Whalen pushed an up-court pass after a steal to Maya Moore, who coolly finished a two-on-one break with a no-look flip pass to Augustus to stretch the Lynx lead to 65-51.
Taurasi and Bonner are the only players left from the Mercury's 2009 championship team. They've been swept in the Western Conference finals in each of the last two years. Their quest to recapture that perch was dealt a big blow when Penny Taylor, who was eighth in the league in scoring last season, tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee. She won't play in 2012.
Houston and Alexis Hornbuckle were the only Lynx players who didn't return this year. They were traded to the Mercury in separate deals, but both of them received their rings with the rest of the Lynx before the game.
Houston, whose playing time dwindled last season, had a 2011 high of nine points for the Lynx.