The Tulsa Shock have remained competitive while two of their top players have been sidelined with injuries.
Staying close may be considered a victory for the injury-plagued Indiana Fever.
The Shock go for their first win at Indiana in five seasons Friday night when the league-worst Fever try to end the second-longest losing streak in team history.
Tulsa (3-8) is on the bottom of the Western Conference standings, but half of its losses have come in overtime. It hung around Sunday before falling 88-79 at defending West champion Minnesota despite the Lynx shooting 53.3 percent
“That’s a championship-level team and I thought we fought them right down until the end,” coach Gary Kloppenburg said.
Tulsa could be getting stronger soon with center Elizabeth Cambage (ankle) and Tiffany Jackson-Jones (ankle stress fracture) nearing their returns. Cambage, averaging 18.7 points and 8.0 rebounds, has missed the last eight games, but she is expected to join the team as it continues its four-game trip.
So is Jackson-Jones, who hasn’t played since the preseason. The veteran forward missed last season due to her pregnancy.
The Shock are starting to get significant offensive contributions from sources other than leading scorer Glory Johnson (18.4 points per game). Four others - Riquna Williams, Skylar Diggins, Nicole Powell and Roneeka Hodges - have had at least one game in the last four in which they’ve scored 18 or more.
Diggins has averaged 14.2 points on 46.3 percent shooting over her last five games after averaging 7.0 and shooting 26.3 percent in her first five.
Tulsa, though, still has plenty of issues on defense. The Shock are giving up 83.6 points per game on 47.3 percent shooting - both among the WNBA’s worst.
Those numbers could improve as the Fever (1-7) struggle to find offense with three of their top seven scorers from 2012 title team yet to play this season. Rookie guard Layshia Clarendon (ankle) is also out, and guard Katie Douglas (lower back) and former MVP Tamika Catchings (back strain) are both nursing injuries.
Not surprisingly, Indiana has the league’s worst offense, averaging 66.6 points on 37.9 percent shooting.
The Fever have scored 61 or 60 points in four straight games after Tuesday’s 76-60 loss at Atlanta.
“We’ll get some shooters back,” coach Lin Dunn said. “Douglas and (Jeanette) Pohlen and (Erin) Phillips are worth 30 points, easy. That would be nice, wouldn’t it? Just ride it out. There’s nothing else you can do but ride it out.”
With Catchings not expected back until the end of next week and Douglas likely sidelined until the middle of next month, guard Shavonte Zellous, the team leader with 18.0 points, will likely be the focal point as Indiana attempts to end its worst skid since a 10-game slide in its 2000 inaugural season.
The Fever, 0-4 at home, have won five straight in this series since a 79-74 loss May 29, 2010.
Indiana posted its largest margin of victory over the Shock on Sept. 23, 91-58 at home.