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A Tussle in Tulsa? Phoenix Mercury (1-1) vs. Tulsa Shock (1-2) Preview

Tangela Smith, Diana Taurasi and Phoenix Mercury teammates with the 2009 WNBA championship trophy - AP
Tangela Smith, Diana Taurasi and Phoenix Mercury teammates with the 2009 WNBA championship trophy - AP

This will be tonight's game thread. Please join the conversation!

Who: Phoenix Mercury (1-1) vs. Tulsa Shock (1-2)

What: uptempo vs. uptempo

Where: BOK Center - Tulsa, OK

When: 6:00 p.m. cst

TV/Radio/Internet: ESPN2

The story:

In what was called the "Tussle in Tulsa" in the WNBA newsletter today, expect to see an uptempo game played by both teams. For Phoenix, the pace is expected to be in the form of buckets upon buckets, particularly from 3-point range. And for Tulsa, their uptempo is dictated by defense - creating turnovers and steals leading to fast breaks coupled with pressure to put the opponent off-balance.

The Shock are currently leading the league in blocks (6.33) and steals (12.67) per game while the Mercury have the top spot in rebounds (41.5) per game and second billing in points (83.5) and 3-point percentage (0.361) per game.

Statistically, this might best account for that tussle the league is promising.

But for Tulsa, it's more than just a tussle, it's a chance to continue to grow and gel into one cohesive unit.

After the team's loss to San Antonio, head coach Nolan Richardson talked about the struggles his team is facing this year.

"Most expansion teams don't win basketball games and if you look at our team it may be less than an expansion team because the key players off of the team that I have right now - there's not really any star or even a starter," Richardson said.

One of the current starters for the team, Kara Braxton, points to that famous system as part of the growing pains the Shock have started out with.

"I just think that everybody needs to - not needs to - but you've got to look at like this is a whole totally different system than we've ever played in and Coach Richardson runs, runs, runs us and it's something that we're getting used to," Braxton said.

And from the bench, the view goes to leadership and team chemistry as another opportunity Tulsa has to grow.

"I know that it's - obviously there's some personalities that are a little bit stronger than the others and a lot of the veterans are really trying to step up," says Marion Jones. "And yeah, as rookies we're kind of figuring it out as we go and we don't have that much of a voice yet. But we're figuring it out and I think everybody really is just trying to kind of figure out what their role is on the team right now."

Even coach Richardson points to his own learning curve as an opportunity for improvement.

"I don't know anybody. I have not coached not one single person on the floor ever before so when you've got that - you've got a new coach, you've got a new team, you've got a new system, everything's new and it takes time to put new things together," Richardson explains.

And his thought on winning is one of patience.

"It takes some time. I wish that I could say five games, six games, seven games - I really can't tell you that but I know we are getting better," said Richardson.

Better indeed.

Perhaps he should have started with a lower number as the Shock is coming off their first win in their third game of the season. Perhaps the system is beginning to make sense as players invest themselves in the new style. And perhaps everyone is learning their role and finding their voice - just in time for a tough three game home stretch against defending champion Phoenix, runner-up Indiana and Minnesota.

Now it's time for the nation to see the system live and in action as the newby takes on the champ - time for Shock Ball!