The Sacramento Monarchs were already underdogs when they entered their best-of-three playoff series against the top-seeded San Antonio Silver Stars. After losing Game 1 at home, the fourth-seeded Monarchs face an even bigger challenge.
The Silver Stars look to eliminate the Monarchs and advance to the Western Conference finals for the second consecutive season as the teams continue their first-round series in San Antonio on Saturday night.
San Antonio won 16 of its last 20 games of the regular season to set a franchise record with 24 victories and claim the best record in the WNBA.
That didn't bode well for Sacramento, which lost five of its last eight to finish 18-16, and went just 3-7 against fellow West playoff teams.
The Monarchs' quest to avoid a second consecutive playoff series loss to the Silver Stars got a lot tougher with an 85-78 home defeat on Thursday night.
"Anytime you have a chance to come away with a win in Sacramento you've got to feel good," Silver Stars coach Dan Hughes said.
The next two games in the series will be played at AT&T Center, where San Antonio went 15-2 in the regular season.
San Antonio guard Becky Hammon made six 3-pointers and had 30 points and four assists in the series opener. She was 9-for-14 from the field as the Silver Stars shot 60.0 percent.
"When my first 3 was a bank shot, I thought this could be a pretty good night," said Hammon, who was two points shy of her playoff career high.
Hammon was so locked in that Monarchs guard Ticha Penicheiro had to take notice.
"Becky Hammon was on fire, a lot of her shots were contested," said Penicheiro, who has matched up frequently against her off-court friend over the years. "Great players make great plays. I think she's very hungry to win a championship."
The Monarchs are just as eager to win a title, and it showed as they outscored the Silver Stars 29-22 in the fourth quarter Thursday. But that wasn't enough to overcome a 16-point halftime deficit.
"We played a good second half and fought back, we just didn't start the game with that urgency you need against a team as good as San Antonio," Monarchs coach Jenny Boucek said.
Sacramento guard Kara Lawson doesn't expect to have the same problem as the team tries to stave off elimination Saturday.
"We are going to have to play our best game of the year," Lawson said. "This is a team that has the best record in the WNBA and they play well together. We are trying to win a road game."
The Monarchs lost both their games at AT&T Center during the 2008 regular season, extending their losing streak there to six games, including playoffs. They haven't won in San Antonio since Aug. 3, 2006.
Game 3, if necessary, would be Monday.