Mystics Eye Record as Playoffs Loom

By Jon Gallo
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, August 11, 2006

The Washington Mystics will look to set the franchise record for regular season victories when they host the Detroit Shock tonight at 7 at Verizon Center.

The Mystics (17-15), who have clinched the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs, conclude the regular season on Sunday at New York (9-23) before hosting the first game of their best-of-three series against the two-time defending conference champion Connecticut Sun (26-6) next Friday.

Detroit (22-10), which can clinch the No. 2 seed in the East with a win tonight or if Indiana loses to Connecticut, will face the Fever (20-12) in the first round.

"This is a big test for us before the playoffs because Detroit is one of the best teams in the league," Washington guard Nikki Teasley said. "If we can get a win over the number two team in our conference, that would be big for our confidence."

Washington has struggled against playoff-bound teams this season. The Mystics are 5-11 against the seven other teams that would make the playoffs if the postseason started today. Eleven of Washington's 17 victories have come against Charlotte, New York, Chicago, San Antonio and Minnesota, which were a combined 45-114 entering last night's games.

"But all that matters is how you're playing when you're heading into the playoffs," Washington Coach Richie Adubato said. "You don't want to be peaking in the middle of the season. You want to be peaking right now."

The Mystics, who are coming off an impressive 91-79 victory over San Antonio on Tuesday, have split two games against Detroit, but this could be the first meeting when both teams will be at full strength.

In Washington's 92-68 victory over Detroit on June 3, the Shock was without leading scorer Cheryl Ford. In Detroit's 92-86 win on June 24, the Mystics' second-leading scorer, power forward DeLisha Milton-Jones (14.1 points per game), was out with a sprained left knee.

However, Ford sprained her left hand midway through last night's game against Chicago, and is day-to-day.

Guard-forward Alana Beard (18.8 points) and forward-center Chasity Melvin (12.4 points, team-high 6.8 rebounds) lead the Mystics. Detroit counters with a lineup featuring three all-stars: guard-forward Deanna Nolan (13.4 points), guard Katie Smith (11.8 points) and Ford (14.4 points, league-high 11.7 rebounds) at center.

"I don't know how big our game against Washington really is," Detroit Coach Bill Laimbeer said. "We could see them in the conference finals if we both win our series. This game could send a message if we play them again."

· SHOCK 82, SKY 48: Nolan scored 22 points and Kara Braxton added a double-double as Detroit routed visiting Chicago.

The Sky lost its 14th straight road game after winning its franchise opener at Charlotte on May 20.

Detroit used a 31-5 second period to put away the game.

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