Mired in a brutal losing stretch, the Chicago Sky know they need to pick up the pace going forward.
A matchup against the league-worst Tulsa Shock could help them do just that.
Hoping to avoid the second-longest losing streak in franchise history, visiting Chicago tries for a fourth consecutive win over Tulsa on Friday night.
Losers of eight in a row and 12 of their last 13, the Sky (8-13) continue to falter. Trailing by 17 at halftime Wednesday against Atlanta, Chicago cut the deficit to three midway through the fourth quarter before coming up short again 82-71.
Sylvia Fowles had 22 points while Swin Cash scored a season-high 19 for the Sky, who haven't dropped nine straight since a franchise-worst 13-game skid early in their inaugural 2006 campaign.
"No team in this league can dig a 17-point hole and try to claw your way back," coach Pokey Chatman said. "We didn't come out of the gates aggressive and right before the second half we sputtered a little bit. We then came out of the second half and held them to 13 points in the third quarter. I asked the players what was differently in the third quarter, and it's the maturity to start the game a certain way."
Despite their recent woes, the Sky remain very much alive as they chase their first-ever playoff spot. Chicago is neck-and-neck with New York for the fourth and final Eastern Conference berth and sits just 2 1/2 games behind the third-place Dream.
"We have been struggling the past few games but we just have to keep pressing forward," Cash said. "We need to play hard. We are in a dogfight right now with Atlanta and New York, just really trying to make the playoffs so we need to make sure when we come out we play strong the full 40 minutes. We just need to finish."
While Chicago outscored Tulsa (3-18) by an average of 13.5 points in sweeping last season's two-game series, it got all it could handle during a 98-91 overtime win June 8. Epiphanny Prince scored 32 points in that game and the Sky recorded a franchise-record 21 points in the extra period.
The Shock are coming off another overtime defeat, falling 82-80 at East-leading Connecticut on Tuesday. Temeka Johnson and Jennifer Lacy each scored 14 points for Tulsa, which led by one before Kara Lawson made the game-winning 3-pointer with 11.8 seconds remaining in OT.
"We had a couple of chances," coach Gary Kloppenburg said. "It was a hell of a game. I feel bad for our kids. They've been battling all year. We've been in a lot of close games. We just haven't been able to finish against the really good teams."
The Shock have been outscored by an average of 14.4 points during their five-game overall skid.