Second quarter, 22 TOs set back Shock

No Mystery in Mystics Win

They played with poise and precision, and didn’t panic when the game got tight. They were a team that hadn’t even gone 2-0 to start a season.

It was a new-look Washington Mystics squad at The Palace Wednesday night, coming up with Detroit turnovers in the first half and clutch baskets down the stretch to hold off the Shock, 75-69.

“We had 22 turnovers, that was a big key to this game,” Shock coach Bill Laimbeer said. “We’re not good enough to do that right now. If we turn it over 20 times, we will not win.”

The Mystics are 3-0 for the first time in franchise history; Detroit falls to 1-2 for the first time since 2004. It was also snaps Detroit’s seven-game win streak over Washington.

“We don’t have the players we need to be the greatest team, but we can still win basketball games if we play collectively and smart,” said Laimbeer, who was without Cheryl Ford, Plenette Pierson and Kara Braxton for the third straight game. “We didn’t play smart tonight.”

The Shock squandered a 21-13 lead after the first quarter by committing nine turnovers in the second, including six Washington steals. Detroit also shot 2-for-11 after Kristin Haynie made it a 10-point lead. “We put our head down in the second quarter, because ‘Aw, it’s so hard with what [the players] have,’ and teams are going to take advantage of that,” Laimbeer said. “We have to realize that can’t happen to us.”

Katie Smith scored seven of her 14 points in the fourth quarter, including a 3-pointer to make it 71-69 with 41.9 seconds left. But Lindsey Harding knocked down a tough 18-footer for Washington, which trailed for just 15 seconds the entire second half after building an 11-point halftime lead.

“I don’t think we had consistent enough effort throughout the 40 minutes to get the job done and they played harder for a longer period of time than we did,” Smith said. “So they were the aggressors and they got it done.”

The Mystics were led by Alana Beard’s 15 points, but got their real boost from the bench. The Mystics had 39 points from three reserves, Crystal Langhorne (14), Marissa Coleman (13) and Matee Ajavon (12). Harding, Coleman and Ajavon are among the newcomers who have transformed the Mystics, who went 10-24 a year ago and hadn’t defeated the Shock since June 29, 2007.

Detroit had a chance to cut the lead to two with just over four minutes left when the Mystics turned it over on a shot-clock violation. But Harding stole the inbounds pass and found Ajavon for a 3-pointer, making it 67-60. Coleman, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2009 draft, scored 10 of her 13 points in the second half.

Alexis Hornbuckle tries to keep a ball inbounds by passing to Taj McWilliams.
Allen Einstein (NBAE/Getty)
The Shock closed the first quarter on a 9-0 run, capped by a buzzer-beating 3-pointer by Alexis Hornbuckle. But when the momentum turned, they seemed helpless to stop it. “We got to be a little bit tighter during that period, keep it [the deficit] to five points rather than 10, 11,” Smith said. “It’s tough to get back from, when you’ve got a talented team like that that can hit shots and playing well right now.”

Taj McWilliams also scored 14 to lead Detroit. The former Mystic made her first three shots of the third, helping the Shock close within 40-37. Soon after, Smith’s first field goal - a triple - tied the game at 45. The Shock momentarily held a 51-49 lead on Olayinka Sanni’s transition basket, but the Mystics ended the third quarter with seven unanswered points to lead 56-51.

Sanni was impressive for the second straight game with 13 points and a team-high seven rebounds. She had 12 points and five rebounds against the Sparks Monday.

Deanna Nolan played 29 minutes - and seemed to grimace through every one of them. She dinged her hand in the first quarter, putting a few Shock possessions into disarray without a shooter, and then twisted her ankle on a critical fourth-quarter possession. She finished with 11 points and six assists.

“At the end, fourth quarter, I came off a diagonal play and when I planted to shoot it, it just … I didn’t get a chance to get [the shot] off,” Nolan said. “It just twisted.” Neither injury should still be a problem when the Shock play again June 19, Nolan said, and that the right shoulder injury that kept her out of three preseason games is good, “knock on wood.”

AfterShocks: The Shock record for fewest points in a quarter is five, against Charlotte in the second quarter June 25, 2006…. The team signed center Kelly Schumacher to fill the ninth active roster spot Wednesday, replacing second-round draft pick Britney Miller. Schumacher played 10 scoreless minutes… Rookie guard Shavonte Zellous is shooting 29 percent from the floor (7-24) on the season after her 3-for-12 outing, but she did grab seven rebounds, tying for the team high. “Zellous is learning,” Laimbeer said, “you can see the talent that she has.”