Detroit defense very impressive last two games

Ugly Win Looks Good to Shock

Shavonte Zellous looked tentative and - well, like a rookie - in her WNBA debut at Chicago in May.

That seems like a long time ago.

In her first regular-season meeting with the Sky, Zellous knew exactly what she was doing Sunday, leading the Shock to a 64-58 home victory with 19 points.

Zellous made eight of 16 shots in what was an otherwise ghastly offensive performance by both teams, which combined to shoot 32.8 percent (43-of-131).

That played right into the type of defensive contest the Shock prefer. The 58 points allowed were their second fewest of the season, just behind 52 in their June 2 win over the Sparks.

The Shock also forced a season-high 21 turnovers that led to 28 points. Head coach Rick Mahorn nonetheless said the team’s defensive performance slightly trailed Friday’s against the Mystics for best of the season. Detroit held Washington seven points below their season average in the 70-66 defeat.

“Well, I thought it was our second [best effort], because we went down to Washington and really kept them down to 70 points, but we just didn’t get the win,” he said. “I thought we got better off of that, came in tonight, and just executed our defense.”

Offensively, it was all Zellous early. She had 14 points on 6-of-10 shooting at halftime. The rest of the Shock had 17 points on 7-of-44.

Six of those points came at the tail end of a 13-0 run after the Shock opened the game by falling into a 10-2 hole. She hit two jumpers and converted a three-point play after being fouled on a fast break. Her baseline jumper with 2.1 seconds left gave the Shock a 15-10 lead after the first quarter.

“She was struggling the last three games and tonight she was getting good open looks,” Mahorn said. “I’m glad she did make those shots tonight.”

Zellous shot just 5-for-15 for 13 points over that stretch. Turning it around, Zellous said, was just a matter of “being aggressive.”

Shock Not Fixing What Ain’t Broke

by Lauren Harper

It was a year ago this Wednesday that the Shock acquired six-time All-Star forward Taj McWilliams from the last-place Washington Mystics. Detroit’s third WNBA title soon followed.

With one week to go before the WNBA’s August 17 trade deadline, don’t hold your breath for a similar move by the 8-11 Shock this year. General manager Cheryl Reeve doesn’t anticipate a major acquisition by the Shock – or any other team in the Eastern Conference, for that matter.

“We have a team that is just now getting back together,” Reeve said Sunday. “We’ve got some pieces that are healthy that hadn’t been healthy, and we like where we are. That doesn’t mean that when the phone rings and somebody wants to talk that we don’t talk about things, but I don’t hear anything that would make us jump.”

Another reason player movement could be scarce is that there aren’t many “sellers.” Contending teams generally look to fortify their rosters by finding available talent on teams ready to rebuild, like in McWilliams’ case. The Mystics unloaded McWilliams, an unrestricted free agent, for two much younger players, Tasha Humphrey and Shay Murphy, and a second-round draft pick.

This year, it’s hard to say that any team in the East is out of postseason contention – and no one wants to make a move that translates into a sign of surrender. “We’re all listening to each other,” Reeve said. “But I don’t think for anybody there’s anything major. So I (doubt) you’ll see much movement at all—everybody’s (around) 10-10, 10-11.”

“I don’t think the last three games I’ve been as efficient as I’d been the first half of the season,” she said,” “but my teammates helped me and I stayed positive and that’s what works, being aggressive.”

The Sky trailed most of the second half but took a momentary lead at 44-41. The Shock closed the third quarter with back-to-back 3-pointers from Katie Smith and Zellous to take a 47-44 lead into the fourth. Smith scored 14 points, and Deanna Nolan added 11.

Cheryl Ford’s put-back of a Zellous 3-point attempt made it 51-44 with just over eight minutes left. The Sky never came closer than four again. After three personal fouls limited her to just eight minutes in the first half, Ford came up huge in the fourth quarter. She scored six of her eight points in the fourth on three shots.

Ford also had a team-high five offensive rebounds, contributing to Detroit’s season-high tally of 21 second-chance opportunities. Kara Braxton grabbed eight, though most off her own misses. (She was 3-of-14.) Taj McWilliams went scoreless for the first time in 2009, but grabbed a team-high 12 rebounds, including an offensive rebound with 1:00 left that let the Shock drain another 23 seconds off the clock.

Zellous made only three of 10 shots in her May 22 debut at Chicago, racking up four fouls and no rebounds. Zellous started that game, but has blossomed since moving into a reserve role after four games. She’s averaging 10.6 points, third on the team behind Smith and Nolan.

“The same team,” Zellous said of the Sky. “You just watch film, watch personnel and me being on the bench, I was able to see what was open and what was not open and things I could do to help my team when I came in off the bench.”

Now 8-11, the Shock are three victories behind 11-11 Atlanta, which currently holds the fourth and final playoff spot in the East. The Shock will visit Atlanta on Thursday in the middle game of a critical three-game road trip. The Shock revisit Washington Tuesday and finish with first-place Indiana on Saturday.

“Right now, we’re planning to have a good week,” Mahorn said. “We want to be able to defend our championship. This week will dictate what we’re going to do.”

AfterShocks: Kristin Haynie’s 3-pointer in the last minute of the second quarter gave the Shock a 31-27 halftime lead. Haynie, who had not tripled in the season’s first 16 games (0-for-8), has struck from downtown twice in the last two games… Sky center Sylvia Fowles grabbed 18 rebounds, 13 on the defensive glass. Both marks tie the record for most by a Shock opponent.