Yes, it's just a mini-streak of two after their 92-79 win over the Minnesota Lynx on Friday, with the chance of the streak stopping later tonight after playing back-to-back games, but still. The team people were equating with the first year of the Atlanta Dream - or even worse - is opening eyes and proving people wrong in this young season.
As has been the case all season, the team it the name of Nolan Richardson's game and in the third meeting of the season with the Lynx a different face emerged as the leader.
Forward Scholanda Robinson had what Richardson described as a "Show Me" night. Or perhaps that's "Scho Me" as Robinson scored a career high 20 points of the Tulsa Shock's 92 amassed in Friday night's victory.
The Shock have been noticeably focused on defense throughout the early stages of the season, but this week Richardson shifted focus a bit to give some additional time and effort into shooting. And it paid off with the dividend of shooting 50 percent from the field and a surprising 52.9 percent from 3-point range, a marked and vast improvement over their 29.8 percent from beyond the arc in their first five games.
"Coach Richardson has had us in the gym the last few days doing a lot of shooting so I think that has a big part to do with us shooting the ball well tonight is we've been focusing a lot of our practice on just getting good shots and just putting up a lot of shots," Robinson said after her career performance.
Tulsa guard Shanna Crossley also made note of the extra time and attention being placed on the offensive side of the ball in recent days.
"That's not going to be there every night, but the nights that it is there, you've got to take advantage of it," said Crossley. "I attest it to a lot with shooting in practice. [Coach Richardson] has taken a lot of time out of the way to shoot a lot during practice. I think it's getting our confidence up, getting more reps up and just becoming more fluid for us."
That fluidity for Crossley came in the form of 3-of-4 3-pointers falling in the bucket and a new season-high for the lady the team calls "Layup" with 16 points in the contest.
Even Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve was surprised by the shooting strength that appeared in the game, especially when coupled with Tulsa's lock-down defensive style.
"They had eight blocked shots and that was the difference in the game. 38 percent versus a season-high three ball for Tulsa," Reeve commented. "It's a bad combination for us to go through that period not to score and to have them doing something that they're not characteristically very good at."
The shots were falling almost at will for Tulsa, but everyone knows Richardson is touted for his defense and it was ever present as well, with those aforementioned blocked shots, four from Chante Black, three from Plenette Pierson and even one from point guard Natasha Lacy. The Shock defense also forced 23 Minnesota turnovers, including 11 steals in the game.
"Defense is the name of the game for me," Richardson said. "I think if you can get people to play defense, their offense and ability to shoot the ball will fall into place.
"We play multiple defenses, we'll pressure you, we'll trap you, we'll play man and I've been so surprised how they are beginning to catch on as I call out numbers to get our defenses changed. They've done a great job and we're still not where we should be at this time of the year but we're getting there and that makes me feel good."
"I think it's just a matter of us being aggressive and locking in on defense. That's something that we take pride in is trying to go out, play hard, make teams hurry and make them rush," said Robinson. "Teams just aren't used to that - used to people getting up in them and running on them like we do for forty minutes."
Crossley, who's been relied upon to provide a strong scoring presence for the Shock recognizes that the team's defense is the "bread and butter whenever we play".
"It's not going to be about how well we shoot even though that makes the game a lot easier. Defense has always got to be there," said Crossley. "A lot of teams have proven that they can't handle our pressure yet so we're going at them."
Which is no surprise to opposing coaches.
"They get everybody in situations where you know it's not going to be very organized most of the time so it was something that we're aware of, we know it," Reeve said.
But knowing and counteracting can be a difficult task when playing a team that is still finding their identity and growing stronger by the game. Now the task at hand for the Shock is silencing the doubters and continuing to produce wins on the court.
Count Reeve out of the skeptic column after being dealt two defeats at the hand of the Shock. "The doubters? Whatever. Come out and watch them."
Crossley is ready for the league to take note of this .500 team, too. "Tell that to all the heads of every team in the league, I bet they never would have expected that."
"Just look at us. We go out there and put our proof out there on the court. We can't sit here and go tit for tat and argue with people that have their own opinions," said Robinson. "All we can do is go out there and play hard and work our butts off and it'll pay off for us."
So whether it's "Show Time" or "Scho Time", the hands on the clock are ticking closer to Shock Time.
On playing back-to-back games:
- Coach Richardson - "This is a thing that I've never experienced in my entire life, where you play one night and you get on a plane and you play the next night. And we've got to do it five times and I'm saying that's what you call a schedule programmed to be defeated. It's very difficult. You can travel, play, it's a tough schedule for us. When you look at the rest of the teams I don't think they have that many turnaround games but this is what's been dealt to us. I guess we're the rookie team or the team that's just entered the league so possibly we might get the worst schedule from a standpoint of that many games on the road on those consecutive weekends."
- Shanna Crossley - "It's going to be rough. Any time you're doing back-to-back it's going to be difficult, let alone the travel on top of that so we'll see what we can do. We're short-handed anyway without Lex here, but it's just about heart and gut-check and seeing how much we can just leave on the floor."
On the return of Candice Wiggins to the Lynx starting lineup:
- Chante Black - "Yeah. She definitely brings another shooter to the team, another leader. We play so hard on defense that it just makes everybody discombobulated and it was able to pull out a win for us. But I'm glad she's back out on the court. She's a good friend."
- Coach Reeve - "I think Candice as her second game back, her first start, I was happy with Candice. It's a work in progress as far as her feeling good about her knee and being able to guard people one on one. She had some open shots, I thought it was a good game for Candice."