After going full throttle for 40 minutes against Washington for the season's first win, the Shock only managed a half hour of solid play when the Seattle Storm came to town. Seattle, who's struggled to a 3-2 start now after ending the 2010 season with rings and a ticker tape parade, almost fell to the sub-.500 category. In fact, Tulsa built a 15 point lead about 13 minutes into the game as a Chastity Reed jumper made the score 29-14. Despite the fact that the quarter closed on a 16-8 run that favored the Storm, the Shock maintained a six-point lead at the break.
The third quarter scoring started out with a triple from Camille Little and after two minutes of the third, the Shock lead evaporated to a one-point deficit. As shot after shot found its mark for Seattle, brick after brick was tossed by Tulsa as the Storm outscored the Shock by a 30-13 margin in the quarter.
Seattle scored on the break. At the line. From long range. And Tulsa saw its immense lead slip to a double-digit hole before the final quarter started.
"We just came out really flat the beginning of the second half," Shock leading scorer Tiffany Jackson said. "We don't know why, we can't put our finger on it but we know that we can't do anymore of this - obviously it resulted in a loss, so we have to fix it."
One thing no one can argue about the Shock, however, is heart and determination. Tulsa clawed back playing from their all too familiar position on the scoreboard - behind. The home team started making baskets, started getting to the stripe at a decent clip, began to drain threes and found themselves within one possession with 1:05 to play after Jackson hit her last pair from the line to finish 12-for-12 for her freebies in the game.
"The thing about Tiffany - she's a warrior and she played extremely hard all the way through the ballgame and I'm really glad that she was able to break out of that shell," Richardson said. "I didn't know she had 20 points. She was playing her heart out. She made all of her free throws. It was very difficult to take her off the floor."
Then Jackson made a hustle play on the defensive end of the court, tying up Sue Bird as she frantically tried to signal for a timeout that wasn't granted. Instead, a jump ball was the call with 45.1 seconds to play and five ticks on the shot clock. Six-foot-three Jackson at center court with 5-9 Bird. But a height advantage didn't help the Shock gain possession.
"I just wanted to jump out big and we wanted to trap Sue and I got my hand on the ball and yeah, just tied it up," Jackson said. "It was a momentum changer for sure. In a matter of 20 seconds. You know, getting the jump ball we were really excited and then the fact that we lost the jump ball was pretty disappointing and so it was good and bad."
The Storm took control as Tanisha Wright came up with the ball and called for time. At this point, 42.5 seconds remained and Seattle had but three seconds now to hoist a shot. The next time the game clock stopped, with the red numbers displaying 38.3 seconds to play, Wright had driven to the basket nearly uncontested to get an easy layup and give Seattle the 80-75 lead.
"I mean it was a huge play there and her drive to the basket really was a little bit of a cushion there," Seattle Storm head coach Brian Agler said. "We had something drawn up. We wanted to get the ball in [Tanisha's] hands and they took the first thing away from us and she decided to attack and finish. They looked at it and I guess it was good, it counted."
But wait. Did the shot really count? The refs said yes. My math says no. Four seconds ran off the game clock when three seconds were on the shot clock, creating a sum of negative one second. Unless you're in a nifty parallel time traveling universe similar to the Island on Lost, there is no such thing as negative one second.
"Well, they said that there was no way that they could tell from the angle of whatever the camera was," Richardson remarked on the call that was under lengthy debate at the scorer's table. "They couldn't tell so you go with the official judgement. And that's - three seconds is a long time for dribble, dribble and then go into the basket and score. There's nothing you can do about it other than you've got to take your pill and swallow it, I suppose."
But alas, the basket counted and Seattle's lead bloomed to five. The back of the Shock was broken, said Richardson.
"To me that was the turning point for the entire game, that particular moment because we had the advantage on the jump and I figured Tiffany could get it," Richardson recalled. "And then of course the ball went to kind of a situation where they took it out of bounds with three seconds and was able to go from where they were - and we didn't even guard the ball to the inside - and make a layup. That was the thing that broke our back, broke our back.
"But if you look at it the other way, if you come up with that call or come up with the ball you're three down and with the ball you've really got a good chance to win the ballgame. Or get it into overtime."
The final half a minute was typical of many games, a staple of free throws and fouls, and the final score was 82-77 when the horn sounded in the BOK Center.
No chance for the Shock to win. No bonus basketball. Just the sting of defeat and thoughts of what could have been.
By the numbers:
Tiffany Jackson ended the night with 20 points and 10 rebounds, her first double-double of the season and the first by any Shock player other that Liz Cambage thus far in 2011. Her points and rebounds totals are both season highs and she was one point away from tying her career high of 21 set on June 22, 2008 against Phoenix.
The Storm scoring was led by 21 from Sue Bird, who was 8-of-10 from the field and 17 from Swin Cash. Camille Little finished with 11 points and after going 0-for-5 in the first half rebounded by going 5-of-6 in the second half.
The Storm shot 54.4 percent for the game compared to Tulsa's 38.6 percent. Seattle dominated points in the paint 40-28 and fast break points 20-6. There was a 28-point scoring swing in the game, with Tulsa owning a 15 point lead (29-14, 7:39, second quarter) and Seattle leading by as many as 13 (65-52, 8:48, fourth quarter).