A rejuvenated defensive effort has helped the San Antonio Silver Stars bounce back from a difficult stretch, but they still trail in the race for home-court advantage in the opening round of the playoffs.
The Silver Stars will seek to cut that deficit while adding to their recent dominance of the Tulsa Shock on Sunday.
As recently as last month, San Antonio (19-11) was challenging for the Western Conference lead thanks to a franchise-record 12 consecutive wins. The Silver Stars then dropped six of their next seven, including five in a row, to fall back to third place.
They gave up an average of 87.0 points over those seven games but have allowed fewer than 68 in each of their past two contests. San Antonio held Tulsa to 37.3 percent shooting and 27 first-half points during a 78-67 road win to end its skid Wednesday.
The Silver Stars followed that with a 90-66 rout of visiting Seattle two days later, moving within two games of Los Angeles for the No. 2 seed in the West. The Sparks have just two games remaining while San Antonio has four and owns the head-to-head tiebreaker.
“That’s what has been missing in that little skid that we had - our defensive presence, our activity level and energy level,” said guard Becky Hammon, who scored a team-best 25 points Friday. “I feel like now we are starting to find our groove again. We’re starting to play the way we want to play. It all starts on the defensive end.”
San Antonio has usually done a good job of containing the Shock (7-23), allowing an average of 74.8 points over a 10-game win streak in the series. The Silver Stars have scored 90.1 per meeting.
The Shock head into this matchup after snapping a four-game skid with a 92-84 victory against a short-handed Phoenix team Friday. Ivory Latta scored 18 of her team-best 20 points in the final 14 minutes while helping her club earn its second win in 14 road games this season.
Latta is averaging 18.2 points over her last six games and Glory Johnson has 18 in each of her past two contests.
The long-suffering Shock, 16-82 in their three seasons since relocating from Detroit, have a rare chance to get out of last place Sunday with a win and a Phoenix loss to Chicago.