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Shock-Liberty Preview

Jul 1, 2009 - 6:41 PM By NICOLINO DIBENEDETTO STATS Writer

Detroit (2-5) at New York (2-6), 7:30 p.m. EDT

The last time the Detroit Shock and the New York Liberty met, they competed for a trip to the WNBA Finals. Nine months later, the Shock have a new coach and both clubs are looking to avoid the Eastern Conference basement.

After earning its first win under Rick Mahorn, Detroit tries to build momentum when it opens its season series with the Liberty at Madison Square Garden on Thursday night.

The Shock (2-5) finished the 2008 regular season atop the East with a 22-12 record. They needed three games to beat third-seeded New York (2-6) during the conference Finals last October, before sweeping San Antonio to win their third WNBA title.

Both teams have failed to build on any of last year's success. Detroit is sixth in the conference standings, one-half game ahead of the Liberty.

The Shock also lost longtime coach Bill Laimbeer, who led them to all three of their championships, but resigned June 15 citing family reasons. The club promoted Mahorn, an assistant, to replace his former Detroit Pistons teammate after a 1-2 start.

Detroit lost its first three games under Mahorn before halting the losing streak with an 86-72 victory over league-worst Sacramento on Sunday.

"It's always good to get a 'W' because it's been aggravating losing four in a row," Mahorn said, "and it's important for the players to keep a high level of intensity and the players did a good job of doing this."

Mahorn appears to be content using rookie Shavonte Zellous off the bench. The guard, drafted 11th overall out of Pittsburgh in April, scored 18 points against the Monarchs, giving her an average of 18.7 points in three games as a reserve after producing 7.5 as a starter over her first four contests.

"She could start but it gives us an extra spark and scorer coming off the bench," Mahorn said. "It's working out good right now and if she continues it will be very helpful."

The Shock won three of four meetings with the Liberty last season, as the clubs split two games at MSG.

New York is looking to end a three-game slide after being swept by East-leading Indiana in a home-and-home series. The Liberty shot 33.3 percent on the road Saturday en route to a 63-54 defeat.

"We talked about needing to make the open shots," said Liberty coach Pat Coyle, whose club is shooting 37.2 percent during the losing streak after making a season-best 57.4 percent of its shots in a June 21 win at Atlanta. "Defense was good. On the offensive end, we need to make the shots."

Shameka Christon was a big part of New York's shooting problems Saturday, going 2 for 10 from the floor for a season-low 11 points after making 6 of 13 shots and finishing with 20 points Friday night. The forward leads New York with 17.4 points per game.

She averaged 13.0 points against Detroit during last fall's conference finals.

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