State of Shock: First-game jitters sting Tulsa team
BY LYNN JACOBSEN World Sports Writer
Sunday, May 16, 2010
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Tulsa failed to sustain any rhythm in its WNBA debut, falling to the Minnesota Lynx 80-74 in front of 7,806 fans Saturday night at the BOK Center.
The Shock's Amber Holt came off the bench to provide a spark, scoring a team-high 16 points, but the Lynx (1-0) had five in double figures.
Tulsa's struggled from the outset, hitting just 4-of-16 field goals in the first 10 minutes to fall behind by double digits.
"That was the most nervous bunch of ladies," Shock coach Nolan Richardson said. "They were airballing layups. When you airball layups, there has to be something wrong. The fans, it was a great atmosphere for a WNBA game. Our ladies wanted to do so well. That had a lot to do with our start. Once we settled down and played, we were able to get back into the game.
"I was very proud of the ladies of their effort. They played extremely hard. We took the momentum into the dressing room at halftime but we turned it over the first couple of (possessions) and (the Lynx) got their heads up."
Tulsa's Alexis Hornbuckle asked fans to bear with the young team.
"We were so anxious, we were having turnover after turnover," she said. "Once we calmed down that's when we came back."
Natasha Lacy provided some key energy off the bench, rallying the team just before the half from a 15-point deficit to forge a 36-36 tie.
During the spurt, the former Texas-El Paso guard recorded a pair of steals, three assists and scored three of her 12 points in a 4:40 span.
"She gave everything she had," Richardson said. "She's been so good off the bench, I didn't want her to go out to start. That could change, she played her heart out and made some great things happen."
Several of the Shock's turnovers in the opening minutes of the second half were unforced miscues.
"We didn't start the third quarter the way we needed to and we got down again. We're going to get better. We're a new team, new environment. Nobody here likes losing, not coach Nolan, not any of us."
Charde Houston led the Lynx with 21 points and Monica Wright had 18, Rashanda McCants 15, and 10 each from Lindsay Whalen and Hamchetou Maiga-Ba.
Marion Jones played just 3:19 in her WNBA debut.
"I was more concerned about playing the veterans," Richardson said. "I didn't want her to get her dapper down."
The players agreed the atmosphere was electrifying.
"The fans were loud, which is exactly what we need," Hornbuckle said. "We just have to take the way we finished at the half and play the rest of the game like that."
Chante Black, who finished with nine points and 10 rebounds, said, "Our energy was through the roof that we tried to throw (the basketball) through the roof. We had too many turnovers."
Shock wins over Orender
WNBA president Donna Orender left Tulsa with an appreciation of the Shock's style of play and the 7,806 fans who showed up Saturday night at the BOK Center for the team's first game.
"It was amazing, fantastic," Orender said. "I'm truly overwhelmed with it. We had a lot of energetic fans. It's exciting now, and it's only going to be more exciting.
"I love coach (Nolan) Richardson's style of play. If you love basketball and follow it as many of us do, it's a question of timing. These players don't know each other yet. But what he has instilled in them very quickly is an incredible passion to play hard and play fast. Now, it's just a question of time when it comes together."
Orender greeted the fans before the game, saying, "Tulsa, you are the best. I'm happy to be here today to introduce Tulsa's newest professional franchise in the WNBA. This begins and starts with you, the people of Tulsa. You don't even know how good this is going to be. Let me welcome the Tulsa Shock and the city as the newest member of the WNBA."
Richardson’s pregame speech about ‘showtime’
Nolan Richardson's pregame speech was short and to the point — much like his practices leading up to opening night.
"Are you ready for the show?" Richardson asked as he looked around at his basketball team.
"It's showtime," Shock guard Natasha Lacy replied softly.
"I can't hear you — are you ready for the show?" he shouted.
"It's showtime!" the players yelled.
"The game is a speed game. It's all about speed and quickness," Richardson said. "Do it with your defense. We're all about pressure. Pressure the pass, pressure the ball. Fix it on offense, fix it on defense. Just keep fixing it."
The key, Richardson said was to run.
"When you're standing next to (an opponent) and she is breathing hard, then you've got her," Richardson said. "Look at her and say, 'I'm going to make you run some more.'"
Finally, he told the players they would make him look like a prophet.
"There are those people who play to play and there are those people who play to win," he said. "I don't know very much, but you're going to make me a prophet by the way you play."
"Are you ready for the show?" Richardson shouted.
"It's showtime," the players shouted as they exited to the court.
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SEASON OPENER: LYNX 80, SHOCK 74
Shock up next: 11:30 a.m. Thursday • BOK Center • Vs. San Antonio • TV: Cox-3, FSOK-27
Lynn Jacobsen 581-8461
Tulsa Shock's Amber Holt scores against Minnesota Lynx's Charde Houston in the second half of Saturday's season-opener at the BOK Center. Holt led the Shock with 16 points. STEPHEN HOLMAN/Tulsa World
Tulsa Shock's Amanda Thompson (left) and Shavonte Zellous double-team Minnesota's Monica Wright in the first half of Saturday's game at the BOK Center. STEPHEN HOLMAN/Tulsa World
Tulsa’s Marion Jones watches the action from the bench. STEPHEN HOLMAN/Tulsa World