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Game preview: Tulsa's five things to watch as Shock (4-18) takes on Seattle (19-2)

Tulsa Shock head coach Nolan Richardson, with assistant Wayne Stehlik
Tulsa Shock head coach Nolan Richardson, with assistant Wayne Stehlik

Heck, even the Phoenix Mercury's Diana Taurasi recognizes the power position in which Seattle resides.

"I don't think anyone is going to catch Seattle right now, that seems to be set," she said after shellacking the Shock on Thursday evening.

And that being said, it's more than hard to preview a game in which the match-up seems to be a slam-dunk. Seattle should win - and probably big. But that won't stop Tulsa from showing dogged determination on the court to block the dunk, grab the steal and come up with the upset in forty minutes of hell fashion.

For Tulsa - five things to watch tonight

One, free-throw shooting. In one of the wilder stats around, Tulsa is 0-8 when attempting more free throws than the opponent. You'd think the opposite would be true, but when there is only one person with a free throw percentage of over 80% ( 83%, Alexis Hornbuckle) and she has missed the last six games, odds are not in your favor when you get to the charity stripe. Especially when you consider the team-low percentage of center Chante Black is currently 36%. Ouch.

Two, turnovers - especially those that are unforced and self-imposed. In their last game against Phoenix, Tulsa committed 19 turnovers that resulted in 32 points, which happened to be the final margin in the game. The team is actually 4-6 when committing fewer turnovers than their opponent - perhaps there's something to the turnover game when all four wins come with better ball control. 

Three, the third quarter meltdown. It's like a different team arrives on the court to start the second half, in almost every game Tulsa has played. Everyone sees it and knows it, the players and coaches continue to try to rectify the issue and nothing appears to work. Personally, I'd like to move to either a) ban third quarters all together or b) change their name to something other than 'third quarter'. Pretty please.

"It's been in almost every game we've played. It's like coming out of the dressing room, taking a breather and taking too long to get going again because usually in the fourth quarter we play pretty good again. That has been the mystery of this basketball team is the third quarter letdown.

"Usually my teams are – that has something to do maybe with conditioning. That also has something to do with focus. So when you don't have those two working hand in hand, you come out and you're flat and that's what we have. We've been flat and we've tried several things – get out here early, go late, go do some warm-up, some drills before you get into the game again – seen nothing.

"We try to play as hard – we want to play harder in the third quarter than we played in the first two quarters. The first five minutes out of the dressing room you've got to make a statement. We have not made a statement. Maybe once. And I think we won that game." - Nolan Richardson

Four, road performances. Generally speaking and discounting a couple of crazy big blowouts, Tulsa seems to be more comfortable on the road. Of their eight road losses, five have been by 12 points or less, three of which were single-digit losses. At home, the Shock has dropped 10 games, and only four are under the 11-point mark.

"A lot of times you can attribute better road play to just being away from home and being away from distractions and having nothing else to focus on but getting ready for the game, but that's neither here nor there." - Scholanda Robinson
"There's no question we're a lot better basketball team on the road to me. You're around your familiar surroundings here at the house, you may not get the kind of sleep that you need. On the road you do. You have not a lot of things to do so you can get some rest in.

"Our kids, they wanna do so well at home and sometimes you want to do so well at home that everything you try to do just turns against you. On the road you're a little bit probably, much more relaxed and you don't have the crowd you're thinking about and you play a little bit different on the road." - Nolan Richardson

Five, heart. This Shock team knows they're the underdog in virtually every game they lace their shoes up to play. But they don't care. The players have a sense of team unity and pride - even after losing games by 30-plus points - that shows them as unwilling to give up. Even against perhaps their toughest opponent yet in the Seattle Storm.

"We've just got to change our mindset. Change our mindset, everybody has to. We've got to get rest and watch film and see what they do best and just go out there and play. Guard somebody, defensively.

"You've got to [forget it]. We've got more games to play. You know what, this is not the end of the season. Everybody knows what Phoenix does. They're not the best team in the WNBA, they struggle here and there and we're gonna struggle here and there. But at the same time, we've just got to say ok, you know what this game's over. We have to look to Seattle. They're another great team, so let's concentrate on that team. Concentrate on what to do to stop them." - Ivory Latta

"This team doesn't have any quitters. This team's not ever gonna give up. We're gonna play hard and fight all the way through. We were tired, I'll tell you that – we just came off a long road trip, back-to-back, overtime game so physically we were tired, but nobody ever gave up. We don't have those players on this team.

"[Playing Seattle is a] big challenge – best team in the league and it'll give us a chance to show our character, show what we're made of and to go out and compete and try to steal one on the road." - Scholanda Robinson