As surprising as the Tulsa Shock's 84-75 win over the Seattle Storm tonight might be, the manner in which they won it was quite predictable.
Maybe you can dismiss the pre-season game in which the Shock's 40 Minutes of Hell forced the Storm into 32 turnovers. But it's much harder to overlook the Storm's season-high 24 turnovers in Tulsa during their 83-72 win in which they needed a 4th quarter rally to win.
Again tonight the Storm turned the ball over 24 times but this time the 4th quarter rally never came -- despite holding the Shock to 2-12 shooting in the 4th quarter, the Storm turned the ball over 7 times while putting the Shock on the free throw line 12 times thus allowing the Shock to hang on to the 9 point lead they entered the quarter with.
So while the opponents' free throw rate might be among the biggest commonalities between the Storm's consecutive road losses, the bigger issue is that they lost the turnover battle in both and particularly badly against the Shock.
Key stat: Turnover percentage
Against the Lynx, the differential in turnover percentage (22.58% to 18.47%) was a significant reason for the Storm's loss. Against the Shock the turnover differential of 30.38% to 20.73% was again a huge reason for the loss. The Storm normally take care of the ball better than any team in the league but have struggled with pressure in their losses, especially against the Indiana Fever, Lynx, and Shock. What's interesting is that the biggest culprits tonight were the Storm's frontcourt players -- Swin Cash and Camille Little each had turnover percentages over 35% and Lauren Jackson had five turnovers for a percentage of 28.53%. Perhaps it's safe to say now that forcing turnovers is the key to beating the Storm, but even that can be difficult to do with a point guard like Sue Bird running the offense and it is very likely their frontcourt will turn the ball over like that with any sort of regularity. Nevertheless, there's undeniably a clear pattern to their losses.
Shock statistical MVP: Ivory Latta
Say what you will about Shock coach Nolan Richardson's player transactions, but it's fitting that in the biggest win of their first season it was Latta who came up big statistically. The move to waive guard Natasha Lacy in favor of Latta, who he had waived earlier in the season, seemed to be among his most perplexing at first but if there was any lingering doubt about why he made that move, tonight should have provided sufficient evidence to put those doubts to rest. Latta not only provides needed energy and leadership to the Shock, but she is running the point very efficiently right now. In tonight's game, Latta had a turnover percentage of 5.3% and an assist rate of 37.55% which led to an outstanding pure point rating of 12.22. That she also shot 2 for 5 from three point range which helped her to an effective field goal percentage of 63% and a free throw rate of 75% in addition to two offensive rebounds (9.5%) was icing on the cake. She played an outstanding game and after bouncing around for a few years, she might have found a home with Richardson and the Shock.
Storm statistical MVP: Tanisha Wright
Perhaps it's not terribly uncommon for Storm fans to see this in spurts, but in tonight's game while Sue Bird was more of a scorer with her assist rate at only 11.67%, Wright played the distributor role and did so quite well. Wright had an assist rate of 34.65% and a turnover percentage of 9.9% which helped her to a very good pure point rating of 8.33. She also scored relatively efficiently with an effective field goal percentage of 56% including 2-3 three point shooting as well as a free throw rate of 55.55%. Bird and Wright combined for nearly 75% of the Storm's
Key player: Rashanda McCants
Again, McCants was another in-season transaction -- involving the last remaining Shock player on the team -- that Richardson was roundly critiqued for around Twitter. But although she didn't score much, where McCants came up big tonight is partially where one might have expected. Her four defensive rebounds for a defensive rebounding percentage of 17.29% were a welcome addition. She had two blocks. But perhaps most surprisingly is that she had an assist rate of 30.36% and no turnovers. The team has spoken numerous times of improving chemistry in the locker room and McCants might become a subtle change that ends up fitting the system and how this team wants to play as a unit.
For more on the game, see the storystream at SBN Seattle.