Shock 74, Mystics 60

It took 40 minutes of ugly basketball and a fourth consecutive home loss last night, but Michael Adams may finally have pinpointed the problem with the Washington Mystics after a 74-60 loss to the Detroit Shock at MCI Center. "It's going to be impossible," Adams said, "for us to win with just one player."

Again, Chamique Holdsclaw, the WNBA's leading scorer, played well, scoring 20 points and grabbing 11 rebounds. Again, Holdsclaw's teammates sandbagged her performance by shooting poorly and struggling on offense in the late stages of the game.

Alana Beard, Stacey Dales-Schuman and Chasity Melvin combined for just 12 points as the Mystics fell to 2-5. The Shock improved to 5-3.

Holdsclaw "is doing everything, and we're not helping her," Melvin said. "We need other scorers to step up; otherwise we won't win many games."

That was plenty evident with three minutes left and the game tied at 60. Detroit double-teamed Holdsclaw, and the Mystics buckled. Guards Dales-Schuman and Beard tried frantically to pass the ball inside to their double-covered teammate. When they couldn't, the guards forced difficult, off-balance jump shots -- and Detroit scored the game's final 15 points to send the crowd of 13,423 home disappointed.

"Every player on the court was looking to get the ball in to Chamique," Adams said. "We stood around on the perimeter and wanted her to do it on her own.

"Somebody else needs to score. We need to find somebody else."

There are plenty of candidates. So far, none has panned out.

Coco Miller, who averaged 12.5 points last season, suffers from a tweaked ankle, a woeful shooting slump and depleted minutes. After shooting nealry 70 percent in the preseason, she has averaged just over three points in Washington's first seven games.

Power forward Melvin, the team's biggest offseason acquisition, hasn't provided much help either. A 14-points-per-game player with the Cleveland Rockers last season, she averages just five points on 39 percent shooting.

Dales-Schuman's average is down to seven points, from 10 last season. Beard, a rookie, is Washington's second-leading scorer at 10 points per game, but she still doesn't rank in the top 30 scorers in the WNBA.

"It's just a problem with the whole team right now," said Tamicha Jackson, who was the only other Mystic to score in double figures (10 points). "Late in games, we're falling apart. We're not moving well on offense. We're not passing well. We're not really spreading the ball around."

At times, they're not playing much defense, either. For the league-leading fifth time this season, the Mystics gave up more than 70 points. Detroit scored 42 points inside, and most of those came off layups. The Shock was led by guard Deanna Nolan (19 points) and forward Swin Cash (18 points).

Still, thanks to Holdsclaw, the Mystics managed to stay close during the first half.

Washington's star scored her team's first four points by hitting two long jumpers. After the second one, from just a foot inside the three-point line, Holdsclaw looked to Beard and said: "I'm feeling it."

When Detroit threatened to pull away, grabbing a six-point lead early in the second half, Holdsclaw saved her teammates again. After Jackson badly missed a long three-pointer, Holdsclaw scrambled for the rebound, dribbled out of the lane and swished a fadeaway jumper.

Detroit might have overcome Holdsclaw's strong play early in the game had it not struggled offensively in the first half. With nine minutes left, the Shock went cold and missed nine straight shots. Cash airballed a layup. Center Ruth Riley shanked two three-foot shots in a row. It took nearly five minutes before Detroit finally hit its next field goal.

"This could have been our game," Adams said. "But only one player really did what she was supposed to do to try and get it."