Nothing Mystical About 3-0 Start
The Shock had 17 assists on 18 field goals and shot 58 percent from the field en route to a 94-79 victory over the Mystics at The Palace. The Shock amassed a season-high 24 assists and their most points since Aug. 17, 2003, when they scored 95 against Seattle.
The Shock had nine assists on their nine field goals in the first quarter, including at least one of each by every Shock starter. “You always want that,” Laimbeer said. “You always want good passing. I thought our break tonight (worked) very well. We passed the ball well on the break, a lot of unselfishness and sharing the basketball to make sure we got good layups.”
Offensive efficiency had not been the Shock’s strong point in their first two victories this season. Laimbeer hoped to improve upon that with seven days off before playing the Mystics. The offense was running so well Tuesday, Laimbeer said the players got “careless,” resulting in a season-high 24 turnovers, too.
“We’re playing well offensively, we’re doing what we’re supposed to, running well, but 24 turnovers is just terrible,” Laimbeer said.
“Carelessness. Knowing that we could score with relative efficiency that we got a little lackadaisical. There was some dumb turnovers out there. I will take aggressive turnovers, but we had a lot of dumb ones, at least 10 dumb ones.”
Turnovers not withstanding, the Shock were rolling for much of the game against the Mystics, which fell to 0-3. The Shock play another winless team Saturday, the 0-3 Houston Comets, on the road.
“When we get it rolling and everyone’s just clicking, we’re passing the ball, finding the open man, that’s when we’re at our best,” said Swin Cash, who scored a game-high 21 points. “And that’s when teams can’t just zone in on one player, they have to kind of play everybody straight up, and that’s why you saw Washington go to a zone. And I think once we get that embedded into our minds and continue to play we’ll be all right.”
Cash asserted herself early and had her best performance of the season. She frequently started the Shock’s fast breaks off her defensive rebounds. She had six rebounds and five assists in addition to her 20 points.
“(I was) just trying to be more aggressive, assertive to the basket,” Cash said. “Bill told me he wants me to fill out my stat line from rebounds to assists and I’m able to do that. So I just wanted to assert myself more today on all aspects of the game and not just focus in on one thing.”
Rookie Ivory Latta made a surprise appearance in the second quarter, to the roar of the crowd. Latta squared up for a 3-pointer from the left wing, missed, but a long rebound came out to Smith, who found Latta at about the same spot. The second attempt was good, and Latta’s first professional field goal gave the Shock their biggest lead of the game, 40-31. The nine-point margin held to halftime, 45-36.
“I told Latta before the game to be ready,” Laimbeer said. Latta also added another trey in the final seconds. “I thought if they went to a zone, we expected them to play a lot of zone defense, and if our guards weren’t shooting or we had foul trouble I would put her in before (Elaine) Powell.”
While Latta provided the spark, the entire Shock bench helped carry the load, accounting for 17 of the team’s 24 points in the second. Plenette Pierson scored eight of her 14 points in that span.
For Washington, league assist leader Nikki Teasley did not have an assist in the first half and had only one in the game, and the recently acquired Monique Currie did not have field goal, scoring five points from the foul line. Forward DeLisha Milton-Jones led four Mystics in double-figures with 18.
The Shock nearly blew all of a 16-point lead in the third quarter while being called for 10 fouls, including a technical on Laimbeer. Soon after the Laimbeer technical, Cheryl Ford was called for a blocking foul and then whistled for a technical, a sequence after which the Shock lead was only two points, 59-57. But Deanna Nolan and Katie Smith knocked down triples in the final minute of the third to pad the lead, 66-59, and they never looked back.
“People were open,” said Nolan, who had team-high eight assists and 13 points. “I think we started running more which opened up the court. We were finding people for shots and layups or whatever. That’s the one thing we didn’t start at the beginning of the game. They were running on us but we weren’t running on them. In the second half I thought we picked up and were finding each other.”