Ivory Latta who reached the 1,000-point club Tuesday, led the Shock in Thursday's loss with 20 points. (courtesy of Troy Littledeer)
The Tulsa Shock come so close to winning.
So close the team can taste it, the fans can taste it, even the opponents can taste it. But it just never seems to happen.
While "never" is a bit of an exaggeration, it's not by much, as the Shock have only won one contest so far this season.
Thursday night's almost-win was against Chicago, where the Sky picked up a 64-55 victory. And one of the fans sitting courtside cheering for a Tulsa win was none other than NBA basketball superstar, Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder. (Durant also talked lockout, seen on SBN's WTLC)
"I'm a basketball fanatic of course, and any level of basketball, I'm always watching," Durant said. "I think women's basketball, they play the right way. A lot of fundamentals and I enjoy watching and I also can learn a few things as well.
"I always want to come and support the girls, and it's always fun watching professional basketball. This game has been good the first half, hopefully we pull a lead pretty soon and try to get this win."
Durant was right, the first half of action was good.
The contest was played pretty evenly between both teams, with Chicago holding a 7-point lead at the break. The third quarter belonged to the home team as the Shock came out on a 15-5 run, just like Durant ordered. Tulsa led 47-44 with 3:16 remaining in the period and the Shock finished the quarter with a two point advantage over the Sky.
If the third quarter belonged to Tulsa, the fourth quarter was firmly in the grasp of Chicago. The Sky outscored the show 18-7 in the final 10 minutes.
"We played pretty much, what? A good 30 minutes solid and then I thought that Chicago turned the table on us," Edwards said. "All they did is they started penetrating and we weren't guarding well. They were doing what I would rather us be doing, putting the pressure on them, penetrating and scoring or getting to the free throw line. To me they did what we do best usually when we make runs at teams."
Closing out games continues to be an Achilles heel for the Shock, no matter who takes the court. In Thursday's loss, Edwards chose to go with the more veteran players on the team to finish out the game. A plan that didn't quite do the trick.
"For me that was more of a design," Edwards said of the lineup. "Amber is one of our best players, if not the best defensive player. Sheryl is needed out there for her mental capacity and you hope that she can knock down some big shots for you. Of course Tiffany has been stellar but tonight I didn't think she was as stellar as she has been in the past. And Jen - Jen just brings a little more intensity when you need it as well. So I mean I thought I could put the best foot forward. Latta was having the best game on the team, so..."
Latta's best was seen with a game-high 20 points and three assists, but also a game-high six turnovers.
"It was just - oh man - a dream, a nightmare," said Latta. "Everything's clicking for us and then all of the sudden we turn around and it's just going the other way. We can't explain it. I think we lost our composure, had mental breakdowns and things like that. It was hard for me. Me personally I had too many turnovers, too many turnovers. I know I've got to limit my turnovers and take care of the ball and that's inexcusable for me, inexcusable.
"It's very hard because you know, me as a point guard, I put everything on my shoulders. It's just - I always blame myself for everything. I felt like if I could have done more to get this team a win then I should have done more."
Noticeably absent for long stretches of the game were Liz Cambage and Kayla Pedersen, the pair of rookies that have made their presence known in the first half of the season. Pedersen is recovering from an ankle ailment that left her hobbled for much of Tuesday's game, but Edwards remarked that she was much better for Thursday.
"It's better, she's just not looking like herself right now," she said of Pedersen after her 2-point performance in 16 minutes.
Cambage, however, is in a more curious situation. There is no injury to speak of, only shortened playing time. She finished with seven points and seven rebounds in 14 minutes. Her replacement down low was recent addition to the team, Abi Olajuwon. Olajuwon played nearly 19 minutes in her first game seeing action since signing over the all-star break, but her performance impressed Edwards and earned the additional court time.
"I thought Abi did a great job. Her body size is awesome, she knows how to use it and that's why she got so many minutes tonight," Edwards said. "We're still teaching Liz how to use her body and to actually learn those things which would make her much more of a dominant force in this game. I like what I saw, especially from Abi, in the first half."
Olajuwon was excited to be back on the hardwood for the first time in 2011, especially against the team she played with in 2010. She recognizes the adjustment to Tulsa's system, but is ready for the challenge by utilizing every opportunity she gets.
"You might not know everything, but you can always bring that intensity and aggression," Olajuwon said after the game. "Those are things that you don't have to know the play to try to be aggressive, and you just try to do whatever is needed at the time. If they need you to be strong and go up on their post play that's one thing you can do, that's effort."
Tiffany Jackson tied a WNBA records with eight offensive rebounds in the game, and 11 total rebounds in the third quarter. She finished two points shy of her fourth consecutive double-double with her 15 rebounds and eight points. The Sky was led by Sylvia Fowles' 14 points and 10 rebounds.
Other major contributors to Chicago's victory include Michelle Snow's 11 rebounds and five assists and Courtney Vandersloot's 12 points and four assists.