Perhaps befitting two teams struggling to the finish line of the WNBA season, tonight's game was one the Washington Mystics struggled to win.
Washington snapped a four-game losing streak by defeating the Detroit Shock, 75-70, before 7,029 at The Palace of Auburn Hills, ending a six-game, 13-day road trip. Detroit (10-13) has lost five straight.
"We came out and played aggressively tonight," Mystics Coach Nancy Darsch said. "We executed well and things went pretty smoothly for us. We came to play tonight."
Chamique Holdsclaw certainly came to play. She finished with a game-high 23 points (one shy of her career high) and had seven rebounds and five assists.
"One of the things coach put on the board before the game tonight was, `Play with a lot of heart,' " Holdsclaw said. "I think we did that. At the end of a road trip like this you get down mentally, but we haven't done that. We're trying to still have fun."
The Mystics (7-17) led 71-63 with 1 minute 5 seconds left, but two three-pointers by Jennifer Azzi (22 points) and a free throw by Val Whiting brought Detroit within three with 28.7 seconds left and possession of the ball.
Shock three-point specialist Claudia Maria Das Neves missed two open three-pointers in the final 20 seconds to allow the Mystics to post their first win since a victory over Minnesota started their road trip.
In addition to Holdsclaw, the Mystics received a boost from an unlikely source. Rookie reserve forward Monica Maxwell scored a career-high nine points in 15 minutes. All of her points were scored in the final six minutes of the first half. Maxwell saw extended minutes because guard Nikki McCray dislocated the ring finger on her left hand in the opening minutes.
Entering today's game, Maxwell had not scored on five shot attempts, but was 3 for 4 tonight.
"Monica's a very nice player and an outstanding athlete," Darsch said. "She has gone into games for us in spurts. She hasn't connected well but today she knew she would be in for a while longer with Nikki out and she got warmed up and the shot came to her."
Maxwell agreed: "Playing that long tonight helped a lot. I was able to warm up and I was pretty open on all of them. It was just a matter of taking the shots."
Maxwell's surge in the first half carried Washington to a 41-35 halftime lead. It also bought the Mystics enough time for McCray to return. She returned in the second half, played 16 minutes and scored 14 points after medical personnel pushed her finger back in place.
"I was trying to steal a ball and I totally jammed my finger," she said. "I tried to pop it back in and I couldn't. [The trainers] tried to pop it in and they couldn't. The doctor tried to pop it and he couldn't. They thought there might be a fracture so they had to X-ray it. They said my lower knuckle was pushed up over my top knuckle."
McCray said the finger hurt the second half, but she said she felt she needed to be in the game.
"We needed this win," she said. "I told the doctor he had to pop it in because I needed to play. Even if I can't score, I can do other things to contribute. It was sore, but I just tried not to think about it."
COMETS 75, MONARCHS 70: Sheryl Swoopes had 26 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists, and Cynthia Cooper added 22 points and six rebounds as Houston stopped visiting Sacramento.
LYNX 73, MERCURY 56: Sonja Tate and Andrea Lloyd-Curry, scoreless in the first half, combined for 16 points during a second-half run as Minnesota ended a three-game home losing streak by routing Phoenix.
STING 62, ROCKERS 56: Andrea Stinson scored 18 points, including five in the final three minutes, to lead host Charlotte over Cleveland.