The Tulsa Shock have never won in KeyArena - never really even coming too close - and after losing their first three games to the Seattle Storm this season, ending their WNBA record 19-game losing streak tonight seems unlikely.
So with three fairly distinct blueprints for how the Storm can beat the Shock, Storm center Lauren Jackson back in action after a prolonged absence due to a hip injury suffered in Tulsa on June 21, and the standard KeyArena home court advantage, it's safe to say that the Storm are the heavy favorites in tonight's meeting.
There's little doubt that the Storm know how to beat the Shock, Jackson could be a "new" factor in this series, and there are a multitude of other ways the Storm can get the win and move into second place.
Nevertheless, you have to figure that the 1-22 Tulsa Shock are going to come into KeyArena highly motivated to avoid that uncharted 20 consecutive loss plateau (or canyon?) against the Seattle Storm tonight, which does make them a dangerous opponent.
So what would the Shock have to do to pull off a victory against the Storm?
Three keys for the Tulsa Shock:
- Force turnovers on the Storm: Inconsistent with most of the rest of the Storm's season, they've averaged just under 11 turnovers against the Shock in their first three meetings this season, which is very good for a team that was hovering around 17 for most of this season without Jackson. Yet it's no coincidence that 16 of the Storm's 32 turnovers against the Shock this season came in the first game (when Jackson got injury) in which the Shock came within five points of the Storm and had a shot to win late in the fourth quarter. So just like the standard key for the Storm is to limit turnovers, the Shock have to find a way to force the Storm into turnovers if they want a shot at winning tonight.
- Establish Liz Cambage early, often, shoot free throws, and repeat: Liz Cambage is tall. In their last meeting, Cambage used that to her advantage in scoring a career-high 24 points against the Storm. That will certainly be tougher with fellow Australian Jackson patrolling the paint this time, but that doesn't change that Cambage has the ability to get the ball, draw contact, and get to the free throw line to score points: she's among the best in the league at getting to the line and got five attempts in 27 minutes last time, which isn't bad.
- Turn the Storm into a jump shooting team: Again, this is not nearly as easy with Jackson in the paint to give the Storm a more significant scoring presence on the interior. But the Storm have had a pattern of getting stagnant and settling for jumpers when teams defend the paint well early in the game. The Storm's perimeter shooting is no longer so terrible that zoning them up is a no-brainer, but a team like the Shock might have a better chance of relying on 6-foot-8 Cambage and 6-foot-4 Kayla Pedersen to defend the basket in a zone than trying to contend with the likes of Jackson and Sue Bird (who dropped 29 on them once already) straight up.