Mystics Primed for a Big Test at Detroit

Alana Beard and the Mystics, off to the first 2-0 start in team history, haven't won at Detroit since 2005.
Alana Beard and the Mystics, off to the first 2-0 start in team history, haven't won at Detroit since 2005. (By Joel Richardson For The Washington Post)
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By Katie Carrera
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Nakia Sanford paused to consider what a win against the Detroit Shock this early in the season might mean to the new, rejuvenated and overhauled Washington Mystics. Perhaps not that much, the seven-year WNBA veteran said. After all, there are a lot of young faces on this team. For the older players, though, the possibility of defeating the defending champions at Detroit and starting the year 3-0 is tantalizing.

Consider first that the Mystics have not won at the Palace of Auburn Hills since June 24, 2005, a lone 69-55 victory in seven trips to Detroit over the past four seasons. During that span, Washington has defeated the Shock just five times in 15 meetings overall. Tonight, the Mystics have a chance to improve upon the first 2-0 start in history at 7:30 p.m. when they face a Shock team that is without three of its top four post players.

"A win on the road in Detroit would be big. I don't care how beat up they are," Sanford said. "They could be out there on one leg hopping around with two fingers and they're still Detroit. Even at diminished capacity, they have so many high-level athletes on that team that a win would mean a lot against them. We can't go into it thinking about who they don't have."

Detroit (1-1) opened the season with two games against Los Angeles. The Shock suffered an embarrassing 78-58 loss in the opener but then trounced the Sparks by 29 points two days later, even though it was without forwards Cheryl Ford (knee) and Plenette Pierson (shoulder) and center Kara Braxton, who is serving a six-game suspension after pleading guilty to an off-season DUI charge. All three are expected to miss tonight's game.

Despite the missing players, Detroit is largely the same team that made a habit of demoralizing the Mystics in 2008, winning by double-digit margins in each game of the season series, including a 37-point blowout. Washington knows that in order to continue its evolution, it must display new resolve against teams such as the two-time defending champion Shock, which has a reputation as the grittiest team in the WNBA.

"For a long time now, Detroit has definitely been the team to beat," Mystics Coach Julie Plank said. "No matter who they have, the championship runs through them. So it will be good to see where our team is."

Mystics Note: Vicky Bullett has been promoted to Washington's manager of basketball operations in addition to her duties as an assistant coach. A Maryland alum and a former Mystic, Bullett is coaching at the professional level for the first time this season after working as a teacher and coach in her home state of West Virginia.

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