7:00 PM ET, August 7, 2009
The Detroit Shock haven't played like defending WNBA champions this season, but they still have a chance to climb back into the playoff picture in the Eastern Conference.A good performance against the Washington Mystics in the next week would certainly help, as the Shock will play twice at the Verizon Center in a five-day span starting Friday night.The Shock have reached the playoffs each of the last six seasons and won three WNBA titles over that span, making their 2-7 start especially surprising.Detroit (7-10) has been coming around lately, however, winning five of eight to remain in a crowded postseason race. The sixth-place Shock are two games behind the Mystics (10-9), who are tied for second.The Shock will be looking to win back-to-back games for the second time this season after beating New York 76-64 on Tuesday. They were led by 26 points and a career-high 14 rebounds from guard Deanna Nolan, who has scored at least 20 in each of her last three games."We're starting to achieve some of the goals that we've set for the second half of the season," coach Rick Mahorn said. "We finally played 40 minutes tonight. We know that if we want to make the playoffs, we've got to start winning our conference games."The same holds true for Washington, which has been tripped up by a difficult schedule lately. The Mystics have faced league-leading Indiana three times in their last six games, losing all three but winning their other three games in that stretch.The latest defeat was 87-79 at home Sunday, as they were outscored 33-26 in the fourth quarter."We have to control a lot of things at the beginning to come out with a win in the end," guard Alana Beard said. "The positive is we're hanging with a veteran team."Along with the acquisition of former Duke teammate Lindsey Harding in the offseason, Beard's strong play has been a key for Washington's resurgence. She's averaging 23.3 points in her last three games.Beard is shooting 46.1 percent from the field after making under 40 percent of her shots as the Mystics went 10-24 last season.Washington lost all four meetings with the Shock in 2008 but won 75-69 at Detroit on June 10. The Shock were missing Cheryl Ford, Plenette Pierson and Kara Braxton for that game, but only Pierson remains out.