Though hobbled by the temporary loss June 9 of star guard Odyssey Sims, the Tulsa Shock kept racking up wins. They had notched eight in a row and ascended to the top of the Western Conference standings when All-Star point guard Skylar Diggins tore her ACL June 28.
Diggins had averaged 17.8 points per game and Sims, 17.3. It proved to be too much and the Shock lost their next three games, on the road, last week. They’re now 8-4.
Tulsa’s third loss, to the Sparks by three points last Friday, was hard-fought. They were up against Los Angeles guard Kristi Toliver, as she put up a record 43 points, and the rest of her inspired team. But the Shock never gave up, and responded to every basket the Sparks made. Five players scored in double figures, and the game was lost in the final seconds.
Tulsa coach Fred Williams and veterans Karima Christmas and Plenette Pierson talked after the game about the team’s resilience.
FW: We’re still finding ways to replace two guards in Sims and Diggins that can combine and provide 40 points per game for us……we’re still finding our way.
SF: What is the timetable for Sims’ return from her left knee injury?
FW: My timetable is when we get back for our homestand (July 11); that’s my timetable for her. But I won’t know that until we get back to Tulsa next week. I expect her to play then.”
SF: Can you comment on how the veterans are helping coach the rookies in game situations?
FW: Christmas helps a lot with the wings, Courtney (Paris) helps a lot in the post. Both of them have seen a lot of things, and we’re still a very young team. When you lost two firepower guards who can score for us, then asking other players to step up for us and play defense, it’s tough, especially when we don’t have practice time.
I tell them, these games are our practices.
SF: To what do you attribute their fighting spirit? Was it something you and your staff taught them, or is that just them?
FW: A lot of it stems from our staff and what we instill in practice: resilience, not giving up, showing poise on the floor. They won’t give up; I will never let this team give up.
The mindset I’ve tried to instill since I got to Tulsa last year is that we respect you, but we have no fear. We’re going to go out and play 40 minutes, hard.
We’re not done yet. We’re in the mix; we got a big jump on the win-loss record, and so for us we have to find a way for our next victory. Our goal is to push for the playoffs, and this is our push. I’ve got staff and players who have been on championship teams, and they know what it takes to get there.
It takes road trips like this to figure out who you are and how you respond. With injuries, you just can’t predict them.
We’re just trying to coach our butts off, get through this and help these young ladies build character.
SF: How are you all coping with the loss of your go-to guards right now?
KC: We don’t have those two players – O and Sky – so we have to keep playing together and get it done as a team.
The lineup isn’t the same as it was before, so getting people into spots where they can succeed is our goal. It’s a learning curve, and we’re getting there. Slowly but surely we’re going to break through and try to get it together.
SF: What’s keeping you all going right now?
PP: Our positivity. We’re just one or two possessions from turning it around and going off on another eight-game winning streak. We’re just staying focused on our goal, which isn’t to win multiple games right now, but to stay focused and win a championship.