Given how things are going for the New York Liberty and Tulsa Shock, it’s stunning that the Eastern Conference leaders’ lone defeat to a West club came against Tulsa.
The Liberty will be heavily favored to avenge that loss as they seek a fifth consecutive victory Saturday night at home against a Shock club that has dropped 10 straight yet remains in firm control of a playoff spot.
New York (16-6) has established itself as the class of the East, getting a season-high 31 points from Tina Charles in Friday’s 90-78 victory at Connecticut. Now the Liberty can focus on winning a sixth straight home game while improving to 8-1 versus the West.
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The lone blemish was a 71-62 defeat to the Shock on June 26 in which Charles was held to nine points and Sugar Rodgers was the only Liberty player to score in double figures with 12. Tulsa (10-14) forced 26 turnovers to win despite shooting 33.9 percent, with Riquna Williams leading the way with 11 points.
The Shock had a healthy Skylar Diggins then and the star guard played one more game before suffering a season-ending torn ACL. Tulsa got off to an 8-1 start with her but has won twice in 15 games since with this losing streak the club’s longest since a WNBA-record 20-game skid in 2011.
The mediocre competition in the West, however, has been a saving grace for the franchise set for relocation to the Dallas area. Tulsa is in third place, leading Los Angeles by 2 1/2 games and San Antonio by three. The top four reach the playoffs.
The losing may have created some tension. All-Star forward Plenette Pierson was benched for the first time in Wednesday’s 80-74 road loss to the Sun. The Shock’s game notes indicate she will return as a starter for this contest.
Odyssey Sims led the Shock with 15 points in Connecticut, with 10 in the first quarter. The second-year guard from Baylor was out with a leg injury when these clubs met in June.
Charles’ dominant effort Friday came after she was held to a season-low four points in Tuesday’s 84-63 rout of Chicago. She is second in the league with 9.2 rebounds per game with Tulsa’s Courtney Paris first at 9.9. Charles held an 8-5 rebounding edge over Paris in the first meeting.