Tulsa Shock (7-17) vs. Minnesota Lynx (17-5), 7 p.m., Target Center
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The outside world might be panicking after the Minnesota Lynx had lost two straight games after winning 10 in a row, but inside the locker-room, there is no panic to be had.
"I think first and foremost, we don't look at the negatives of the situation," said Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve. "We talk about leave the doings in Chicago and come out here and get ready and get locked in on Tulsa. It was an eye opener of things we have to do better. We're going to take those situations as learning moments and help us finish strong for finishing up the regular season... I think there are a lot of positives."
If the Lynx had won, say four games, lost one, won five more and lost another, would there be as much cause for concern? Likely not, but that's the world we live in. We love stats, streaks and numbers. Well, the Lynx still have the best record in the league and sit one game on top of the Los Angeles Sparks for first place in the West. The Lynx have what only the Eastern-leading Chicago Sky has: They control their own destiny when it comes to the No. 1 seed going into the playoffs.
"We're fighting for our position," said point guard Lindsay Whalen. "That's kind of what we've been all year... Every team is in some sort of desperation mode for something, whether it's making the playoffs or fighting for position in the playoffs."
Tulsa has had a disappointing season that has been a combination of injuries, poor shooting and flat-out inconsistent play. Hopes are not lost yet, though. The Shock sit 4.5 games back from Seattle for the No. 4 spot in the West. Time is ticking, as they have just 10 games remaining. For them, every game from here on out should be treated like a playoff game.
Last time out
The Lynx are coming off of a 94-86 overtime loss to the Chicago Sky (15-8) on Sunday night.
It was a rough road game for the Lynx. They led 74-71 with just seconds left, but rookie forward Elene Delle Donne nailed a 3-pointer to send the game into overtime. It was all Sky in the final period and gave Minnesota its second consecutive loss after winning 10 straight games.
Shooting guard Seimone Augustus finished with 26 points and six assists, while shooting 10-of-19 from the field. Small forward, and last week's Western Conference Player of the Week, Maya Moore finished with 19 points, six rebounds, four assists and three steals. Whalen added a double-double, just not the kind you'd expect from her. She finished with 16 points and 10 rebounds. She added six assists as well, but shot just 6-of-16 from the field. Power forward Rebekkah Brunson finished with 14 points and seven rebounds.
Despite the loss, one positive was forward Dev Peters. She scored just four points and had four rebounds, but she played a game and career-high 44 minutes and 49 seconds, showing that even with the return of center Janel McCarville, we could be seeing more of Peters off the bench. That minute-mark also was a team record.
"She's really picked it up, she's really done great things in the last couple weeks, really all season she has, she's been pushed even more the last two games with Janel out," Whalen said. "I thought she's been great, great passer, great rebounder... I just can't say enough about what she was able to do."
Tulsa was beaten badly on Sunday at the hands of the Phoenix Mercury (13-11), 77-56.
Only two players in Tulsa's lineup scored more than six points. Center Liz Cambage scored 19 points and added six rebounds, but had six turnovers in the process. Rookie Skylar Diggins came off the bench and scored an impressive 19 points. In all three games against Phoenix, she's scored 12 or more points.
Tulsa shot 14-of-51 from the field and had 15 turnovers in the loss. On the season, Tulsa is shooting 39.8 percent. The Lynx are shooting 46.6 percent.
The Lynx and Shock have matched up three times already this season, and Minnesota has won each matchup by at least nine points. Friday's matchup is the final between the two Western Conference foes.
The last time Tulsa visited the Target Center was on June 23 and the Lynx came away with an 88-79 win behind 22 points from both Augustus and Moore. Whalen finished with 19 points and nine rebounds, while Brunson had yet another double-double, finishing with 11 points and 11 rebounds.
Forward Glory Johnson led Tulsa with 24 points, while shooting 9-of-15 from the field. Former Lynx guard Candice Wiggins finished with 14 points, while forward Nicole Powell had 11.
Cambage missed the game with a left ankle sprain.
Key matchup: McCarville vs. Cambage
The battle of the bigs.
Center Janel McCarville missed the last two games, and the Lynx went 0-2. Reeve said the losses aren't directly linked to McCarville's absence, and she's right, but being a player down never helps.
Cambage has some size on McCarville, but this is nothing new for the former Gopher. Cambage stands at 6'8", while McCarville is just 6'2".
"J has had some success against very big centers, whether it was Griner or Cambage earlier in the year," Reeve said. "She's just a really smart defender. She gives up height and girth, she's just smart. She uses her activity her positioning. The most important thing is we don't ever want her to feel alone down there."
Like the size, McCarville doesn't have the same numbers as Cambage, but she's equally effective.
McCarville is averaging six points, 4.2 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game this season in 20 minutes of play. She's made 50 percent of her shots and is arguably the best passing post player in the league. The Lynx, of course, would make this argument.
In three games against Tulsa this season, McCarville has averaged 8.5 points, 7.3 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game. Cambage played in just one of those games.
Cambage, who has played in just 16 out of her team's 24 games this season, is averaging 15.6 points, 7.7 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game.
In her only game against the Lynx, Cambage scored 13 points and hauled in eight rebounds, but had six turnovers.
McCarville doesn't need to shut down Cambage from scoring, but boxing her out and limiting her, as she's done all season long against her opponents, will certainly help Minnesota's chances for a win.
Minnesota center Janel McCarville is probable for Friday's game after missing the last two games with a concussion.
Tulsa forward Glory Johnson (concussion) is doubtful for Friday's game and guard Riquna Williams (ankle) is questionable.
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