No one wants to be the man that built 'the unsinkable ship' that sunk. No one wants to be responsible for the new fandangled flying machine that fell to the earth in a fiery ball like the Hindenburg. So when Los Angeles came to Tulsa, no one wanted the dubious distinction that might possibly follow. Life or death? Of course not, it's basketball. But an unwanted place in the record books with the longest string of losses in the WNBA was well worth putting up a fight.
When the Shock started out on a 17-5 tear, the team came out swinging. People started believing.
The streak would end. Sunday night.
When they built a 15-point lead, and when they even maintained said lead despite a 9-point third quarter that included a 16-0 run for the Sparks, people were still believing even if that thought had a flicker of doubt seeping through.
The streak would end. With a close call. On Sunday night.
And just as fast as the belief washed over the 6,012 people yelling in the stands, it was muddied past the point of no return with jumper after jumper sunk by the likes of Candace Parker and Kristi Toliver. Brick after brick by players who started hot like Sheryl Swoopes and Jen Lacy and Ivory Latta. A virtual wall of bad shooting that knocked Tulsa's outer-orbit 61.5 percent first half shooting percentage down to 41.1 percent for the game. The Shock shot 7-for-30 in the second half and let their huge 15-6 first half rebounding advantage go by the wayside.
The streak, most unfortunately for the Tulsa Shock, continues.
How did it happen?
Since LiveAccess wasn't available to take you on the ride, you'll just have to trust me as I describe the debacle.
"I really thought we played a great first half and as I reflect back on the game in the second half we just kind of gave out. We never did have the same intensity in the second half that we came out with," Teresa Edwards said. "They got tired. They really wanted to win, and they played like a winning team in the first half. I just think our energy left us and we couldn't get it back."
The first half energy in the BOK arena was palpable, electric even. The usually poor jump shooting team was replaced by double-digit first quarters by Swoopes and Lacy, who combined to go 8-for-10. It was much of the same in the second quarter as the LA man-to-man defense couldn't seem to slow down the Shock. The Sparks offense couldn't get on track, as they committed 12 turnovers and Toliver was just 1-of-6 at the midpoint.
Then the magic started - that is, the magic halftime show. The Sparks came out of the locker room with scowls on their faces, Tina Thompson leading the way. She stepped on the court and around the box with the lady in it getting poked with swords and started putting up shots. When the third quarter started, Jellybean's squad had switched to the zone.
"Defensively, we did a good job. We went zone and that kind of slowed them down," LA coach Joe Bryant said. "Swoopes and Lacy really started the game off on fire, and we didn't think they could shoot 61 percent. But we didn't think they could do that the whole game, so we just stepped our defense. Also we were patient on offense and were able to get some good shots around the basket."
Teresa's squad had switched back to a poor jump shooting, sometimes poor decision-making, careless team. The Shock's adjustment seemed to be one made for the last two minutes of a football game. Tulsa went into something that looked like a prevent defense.
"We were just making minor adjustments at halftime," Edwards said. "It was just continue the intensity because it was our defensive rebounding that really gave us the lift that we needed in that first half, and it didn't hurt that we were actually hitting jump shots."
The aggression and energy that electrified the first half was gone. In its place was a team that stopped rebounding, stopped defending the paint, and stopped making baskets. The passing went stagnant against the zone and the turnover count started to mount. The lead dwindled from a hearty 13-point halftime advantage to a narrow 1-point after the third quarter. Then the Shock took their usual spot of playing from behind as the Sparks built a double-digit lead five minutes into the last act, by way of a 14-2 run. Parker put 16 points on the board in the second half, finishing with 23 points and nine rebounds in the win. Toliver found her touch and swished in 14 points.
Lacy, who finished with 13 points after having 11 in the first half is perhaps focusing inward after the second half meltdown.
"We've just got to keep pushing hard and look at how we keep losing these close games because this isn't the first time we've had an opportunity to win and blew it," Lacy said. "I don't know - I guess some soul searching and personal responsibility and look at how we can improve individually to help us improve as a team. It's really disheartening when we have such a talented team to have this record. It's embarrassing. I think I can speak for everyone to say that we're humiliated but we've just got to pick ourselves up and dust ourselves off and try to prepare to beat Minnesota."
A tough task for the record-holding bunch in Tulsa as they face the only team that's clinched a spot in the playoffs.
- Swoopes finished with a season-high 17 points in her 37 minutes of play. Edwards thinks Swoopes is getting better as the season progresses for Tulsa saying, "Sheryl's been Sheryl. Sheryl's been waiting on her body to feel good and be great and I think the longer we go along, the better she feels."
- Another veteran was noticeably absent from the Shock bench, Betty Lennox. In fact, she was noticeably absent from the BOK after a major mishap in practice. "Betty was in the hospital with a concussion yesterday. She got hit in practice and she's at home right now. It's day-to-day right now," Edwards said of Lennox' status.