After a close 78-74 loss to the first place Minnesota Lynx on Tuesday, Tulsa Shock coach Teresa Edwards was just happy that her 1-22 team was within striking distance, as reported by Jessica Lantz of SB Nation's Swish Appeal.
Could Tulsa have pulled off another three to make it a one-possession game with under 10 seconds to play? At this point, it's moot. But man was it close. Close enough to make a coach happy in the face of defeat.
"I'm not a moral victory person, but hell I'm happy with the way my team played tonight," Edwards said with a smile. "We've got some runs in us. We may run to the finish line and not cross it, but we're going to run."
Whether you consider it a search for "moral victories" or simply an assessment of progress against the league's best team, the fact is that when you've lost as many games as the Shock have you have to start finding alternative measures of success.
The Shock come to KeyArena to play the Seattle Storm (15-12) tonight at 7 p.m. in the midst of a WNBA record 19-game losing streak. Every team struggles in KeyArena, but not only have the Shock not won in KeyArena since moving to Tulsa from Detroit, but they've been beaten pretty badly each time.
Although their record suggests that the Storm will roll to their third consecutive win tonight, you could also look at their situation and consider their desperation dangerous. And Tulsa isn't exactly without bright spots either.
6-foot-8 rookie center Liz Cambage is still adjusting to the WNBA in her first year in the U.S. from Australia, but has shown signs of coming around and becoming the type of player that made her the second pick in the 2011 WNBA Draft this spring. In her last game against the Storm at KeyArena on August 11, Cambage scored a career-high 24 points and 10 rebounds off the bench to help the Shock keep the game close in the fourth quarter.
But desperation and improvement might not be enough to overcome a Storm team that seems to be peaking with star center Lauren Jackson back in the lineup.
With Jackson back on the court, the Storm's offense has looked far more balanced and fluid, if still erratic at times when she or Sue Bird comes off the court. Most importantly, though, is that the turnovers that plagued them early in the season are decreasing dramatically with Jackson back on the court: in their win against the San Antonio Silver Stars on Tuesday, the Storm only turned the ball over once in the decisive fourth quarter. Not only is that far better than normal, but it came against a rather strong defensive team.
If the Storm can continue their success against the Shock at KeyArena tonight, they'll move a half game into second place with a Phoenix Mercury in Connecticut tomorrow night, which makes this game as significant as any other even if it appears to be an easy win against a struggling opponent.