Intriguing 1-1 start has the Shock searching for

The Will to Win

One word to explain how the Shock managed a 49-point swing between Saturday’s loss and Monday’s win over the Los Angeles Sparks?

Pride, said Bill Laimbeer. “I think pride was probably the key word.”

Anger, said Deanna Nolan.

“Just anger. It wasn’t anything to be embarrassed about,” Nolan said of the 78-58 loss at Los Angeles Saturday. “We knew the things that we did wrong; we just had to correct them in this game [Monday]. We did that.”

Pride and anger - the Shock are at their best when both are in play, as they were in the 81-52 smashing of their West Coast rival. But it’s still hard to gauge if the Shock will bring enough of those elements to contests with less inherent intrigue, like Wednesday’s home game against the Mystics. It’s another word - consistency - that has eluded the team at times.

The Associated Press listed consistency as the Shock’s major weakness in its season preview: “Detroit has the balanced talent to contend for the title every year, but is often hampered by a lack of consistent play.” The divergent performances against the Sparks did not help dispel the notion.

Complacency is always an issue when discussing a team’s chances of repeating, especially in the case of the Shock, who came up short in two prior bids to defend the title, including a Game 5 home loss to the Mercury in the 2007 Finals. “They wanted it real bad,” Laimbeer said of the Mercury following Game 5. “They wanted it more than us.”

The bitter ending to 2007 catapulted the Shock to the championship last season, as they took nothing for granted in a three-game Finals sweep. The MVP of that series, Katie Smith, said the players could see how passive they were Saturday’s opener when they watched the video.

“I think it was just more of an eye-opener of just how every night you’re going to have to come out and play,” she said.

Their response on Monday - which the Shock led 41-14 just before halftime - was reminiscent of last year’s Game 3 in the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Indiana Fever, when Detroit opened a 41-10 advantage.

Both games were at The Palace, where the Shock fed off the home crowd, and happened without Plenette Pierson, who in both instances had separated her right shoulder the game prior on a play the Shock deemed malicious, further stoking their fire.

Once the injury-ridden Shock were cast as the underdogs, unlikely to defeat the same team that had just beaten them, they overwhelmed their opponent. The tougher the odds, the better the basketball.

“We have a good enough basketball team [that] if we compete, we can win any game we play and we showed that tonight,” Laimbeer said Monday.

What the Shock show Wednesday night - with just one day off before hosting a Mystics team they are 7-1 against since 2007 - will help Shock fans believe the opener was an aberration, and not a harbinger of games to come.

Rebuilding Reaps Early Rewards: Washington’s 24 losses were the Shock’s gain in 2008, as the lowly Mystics sent six-time All-Star Taj McWilliams to Detroit in August for rookie forward Tasha Humphrey, guard Shay Murphy and a second-round draft pick.

The rebuilding plan has paid early dividends in 2009 as the Mystics, 10-24 a year ago, are 2-0 for the first time in franchise history and the East’s only undefeated team.

With a team-high 16 points off the bench from 2009 No. 2 pick Marissa Coleman, the Mystics won their opener at Connecticut, 82-70. They then overcame a 14-point first-quarter deficit to defeat Atlanta, 77-71. Alana Beard, drafted No. 2 overall by the Mystics in 2004 and one of the few holdovers in Washington, had 27 points, five rebounds and five steals.

Humphrey has come off the bench to score six points in both games.