Shock-Sparks Preview


The Tulsa Shock recorded their first victory of the season Friday.

On Saturday night, the Shock will visit the Los Angeles Sparks, seeking wins on consecutive nights for the first time since August 2009.

The Shock have struggled with back-to-back games in the past, losing the latter contest all four times in 2012. After beating Seattle, 67-58, on Friday, Tulsa will now play two straight nights for the first time this season.

The Shock (1-4) showed significant improvement against the Storm, limiting them to 39 percent from the field. Entering the contest, Tulsa was second-worst in the WNBA with opponents hitting 50.7 percent of their shots. In their first four games, the Shock surrendered 90.7 per game. On Friday, they held the Storm to no more than 17 points in any quarter.

"Our defense really had a lot of energy all game and our backcourt pressure bothered them,'' Tulsa coach Gary Kloppenburg said.

They'll need more of that defensive intensity against the Sparks (1-1), who are shooting a league-best 52.8 percent from the floor. Alana Beard has led the way in that department, hitting a remarkable 83.3 percent of her shots to average 13.0 ppg. Nneka Ogwumike is not far behind, sinking 77.8 percent to average 11.5 per contest.

Candace Parker, meanwhile, leads Los Angeles with 18.5 per game on 50 percent shooting, while Lindsey Harding adds 15.0 ppg on 60.9 percent shooting.

While Los Angeles is averaging 90.0 points, Tulsa has been held to 76 or fewer in three straight games. The Shock will look to center Glory Johnson, who led the way with 17 points and nine rebounds Friday.

Johnson played a big role in helping Tulsa rally to win its final two meetings against Los Angeles last season.

After the Sparks won the first two matchups, the Shock won the final two by a combined 30 points. Johnson tallied nine points, six rebounds and five steals in their first win, before draining 7 of 9 from the field in Tulsa's 99-85 victory over Los Angeles on August 30, 2012. Even in the Shock's final loss to the Sparks in 2012, Johnson had 19 points and eight rebounds.

The Sparks hope that Riquna Williams, who sat out Friday's contest at Seattle, stays on the bench. The Shock reserve hit 11 of 21 from the field, including 3 of 6 from behind the arc, en route to 27 points in Tulsa's 91-75 victory over Los Angeles on June 26. Williams also had 19 points and five rebounds in the Shock's 76-75 loss at Los Angeles on May 29.

"Having injuries wears on us a little bit, but we know everybody has to fight through adversity,'' Johnson said. "When you're tired, you just have to focus on the next play. It was pretty tough for us, but I'll be happy when everybody is healthy and we have a full team.''

Los Angeles has been off since its 83-78 loss to San Antonio last Saturday. The Sparks lost despite a 27-point, 20-rebound performance from Parker.

"Candace Parker is just a handful,'' San Antonio coach Dan Hughes said. "At least in that regard we made her take 22 shots, but she's just a hard guard in situations.''