Mystics 65, Shock 63
Washington Mystics Coach Michael Adams had spent only four games on the sideline with his new team and yet already had seen this scenario take place. The Mystics come out slow, dig themselves a hole, rally, then . . . pull out a close game?
That last part was a new twist on an already-tired theme, but the visiting Mystics welcomed the change in the form of a 65-63 win over the defending WNBA champion Detroit Shock.
The Mystics (2-3) trailed by 10 points early, led by 10 midway through the second half, then held on through tense moments at game's end.
"We've been struggling early on to start games, but we fought to get it," Adams said. "This is something to build on, and hopefully it's a path on the right track. I think this team is ready to take off."
Adams shook up his lineup before the game, sitting guard Tamicha Jackson and starting guard Aiysha Smith and center Nakia Sanford.
It paid off, as Chamique Holdsclaw had 16 points and 14 rebounds and rookie Alana Beard responded with her best game as a pro, scoring 16 points.
"You have to keep your head up," Holdsclaw said. "If you get down and you're not optimistic after four games, you don't deserve to be in the locker room."
Throughout parts of the opening half against the Shock (1-3), it appeared as though Washington (2-3) was headed for its third consecutive loss. Detroit opened a 26-16 lead after Barbara Farris's layup with 3 minutes 6 seconds to play. But a 10-2 run helped the Mystics pull within 28-26 heading into the break.
It took Washington less than four minutes into the second half to take a 34-32 lead. Beard, who started at point guard for the first time this season, had a steal and layup to tie the score at 32, and her jumper with 16:15 left gave the Mystics their first lead since 2-0. Beard finished with 16 points, 5 rebounds and 4 steals.
Washington built its lead to 51-38 following Chasity Melvin's turnaround jumper with just over 10 minutes to play. That is when the Shock started to chip at the deficit, finally regaining the lead after a 10-0 run late in the game.
Forward Cheryl Ford put Detroit ahead, 61-59, with her three-point play after getting the offensive rebound on Elaine Powell's missed free throw with 1:10 left.
"You don't get nervous because you have to stay under control and composed for your team," Adams said. "You just look at the clock going, 'Here we go again.' They're at home. Until you put them away they're going to fight to win the basketball game."
Beard made a layup to tie the score at 61. Holdsclaw then sank two free throws with 28 seconds left to give Washington a 63-61 lead.
Following a Detroit turnover, Holdsclaw made one of two free throw attempts to make it 64-61 with 11 seconds left. Swin Cash scored on a putback to pull the Shock within one with five seconds left, but Holdsclaw made another free throw to give the Mystics a two-point victory.
"Anytime you can win on the road it's definitely a big confidence boost, especially coming into a place like this," said Beard, the No. 2 overall pick in this year's WNBA draft. "It was a big win for us. This game showed us what we can do when we play together, and that's what we did today."
For Beard, starting at point guard seemed to help get her out of her slump. She had combined for just 10 points in the Mystics' last two losses.
"I've definitely been struggling," Beard said. "I'm not going to say it was a breakout game, it was just a good game. [Adams] played me at a different position, I was playing the point, which gave me a lot of control with the team. It allowed me to see the floor better and get my teammates involved. I think I'm at my best when I'm getting my teammates involved and able to see the floor."