The Tulsa Shock picked up another unwanted moral victory on Thursday in a 94-82 loss to the New York Liberty. Why unwanted, you ask? Because the team wants to be paid in full for the hard work they're putting in day after day. The Shock is ready to get paid in wins.
"I'm tired of these moral victories," Tulsa head coach Nolan Richardson said. "I don't like losing and so we've got to get rid of the moral victories. It's time to start having some real victories for ourselves and for the pride and for your paycheck. In other words, victories are paychecks that you see for the hard work that you've given. And right now we're just - we're not collecting any checks."
After a first quarter start that saw the Shock score but 14 points, New York looked to be well on their way to taking that check to the bank. A second quarter surge widened the gap even further, and perhaps left the Liberty thinking of what they were going to buy with said check.
Nolan Richardson's opening remarks after the loss
But the third was different story. The team that had begun lackadaisical and out of sync turned the table. The Richardson press was a prevalent sight. Tulsa went on a 16-3 run to cut the once 18-point New York lead to a 58-53 advantage. In that run, Liz Cambage went on an 9-0 streak of her own. Kayla Pedersen bombed an almost-three from her perch on the wing and sunk a pair of free throws.
"We've been telling Liz to get lower and lower on the floor so that she can just catch it and go straight up with it because she can finish we people hanging on her to get all those and-1's," Pedersen said. "I think today she did a great job of just bodying people up and working for position on the floor, and that's an easy pass to make down there."
The Shock forced nine turnovers in the period and outscored the Libs 31-24 in the third. Tulsa was 10-of-18 from the floor and 9-of-9 from the stripe in their best quarter of the game statistically. When the team started the final 10 minutes down by seven, the check that was neatly written out to New York in big block print just a few minutes earlier was on the verge of being cancelled as Tulsa made their surge.
The Shock used a crucial and-1 from Cambage to cut the lead to 2 with 7:26 to play. Essence Carson's only errant attempt from the line while shooting two kept the game to a one-possession difference before Tiffany Jackson rolled the ball in to set the score at 76-75 in favor of New York. The whirring of the shredder must have been ringing through the ears of the Libs as the Shock inched ever so closer. New York could feel the money slipping through their hands and put a stop to the Tulsa comeback. The Liberty went on the close the final five minutes on an 18-7 run to snatch their check - to earn their third win of the year and keep Tulsa from collecting for the seventh time this season.
"We felt the momentum change and we felt it going over to our side," former Liberty and current Shock player Jackson said. "One rebound or grabbing a ball here or there, a loose ball that we missed and there goes the game. I always enjoy playing New York because I like seeing the girls. But I always want to beat New York though because that's where I came from, so it's very upsetting that we lost especially when it was so close. We've just got to put a full game together."
Scrounging for spare change for the Shock were the two rookie workhorses so close to that second paycheck of their young careers in the WNBA. Cambage and Pedersen combined for 40 of Tulsa's 82 points. Liz did it with 8-of-9 shooting and a 6-of-6 effort from the line to end with 22 points in 22 minutes. Kayla gave the Shock 18 points and duplicated Cambage's 6-of-6 shooting from the stripe in the game.
"We're yelling at Liz to start learning to really post up," Richardson said. "She likes to shoot jump shots if she can, but she's such a big force and she's got such a big target. The more she learns - she's getting beat up, but the more she learns about how to play around that paint the better we're going to be.
"And of course Kayla Pedersen is just a workaholic at both ends of the floor. Whatever you ask her to do, that's what she's going to do. I'd like to see her take more shots, but she's just so unselfish and we're going to have to continue to work with her about the fact that she needs to take more shots for us.
For New York the standout bread-winner was Kia Vaughn. She drained 12-of-14 from the field and picked up 12 rebounds. Vaughn got open looks near the basket and converted on her team's missed opportunities by adding putbacks for points to her stat line. Teammate Cappie Pondexter deserves a cut of the earnings after adding 23 points and 10 assists for the Liberty. And in all actuality, the team gets at least a few bucks each with a whopping 54 points in the paint, 16 coming off the fast break.
Tulsa has an opportunity to take a game on the road as the team travels to Washington to face the Mystics Sunday, a team that the Shock beat less than a week ago. Another chance to make that money, get that dough. Dollar bill y'all.