Kristi Toliver’s record-breaking offensive fireworks help Sparks take down Tulsa, 98-95
LOS ANGELES – In just her third game of the season after spending time overseas competing in EuroBasket Women for the Slovak Republic, Kristi Toliver led the Los Angeles Sparks (2-7) to their second straight victory with a record-breaking performance in a 98-95 win over the Tulsa Shock (8-4).
Toliver set the franchise record for the most points in a game with 43, breaking Lisa Leslie’s 41-point performance set on June 25, 2006. She also tied a franchise record with seven three-pointers made, which was last done by Mwadi Mabika on June 18, 2006. In addition, she dished out seven assists.
“Kristi’s [Toliver] performance was fabulous,” said Sparks head coach Brian Agler. “She got it going. Her teammates were the ones that kept encouraging her to get the basketball and to put her on the move to put the ball in her hands. Not only did she have 43 points, but she also had nine assists. She’s just a very skilled basketball player. She is aggressive, confident, and in great shape. We are excited she is back.”
However, early on in the game, the Shock looked as if they were ready to get a road win at Staples, amassing an 11-point lead at one point in the first quarter. Tulsa pulled away by the first timeout, 10-6, with contributions from their veteran players, Karima Christmas and Plenette Pierson. The Shock led 23-14 after the first quarter with eight points from Christmas.
In the second quarter, the Sparks came out looking to close the deficit with two points from forward Nneka Ogwumike and Toliver to close the deficit to 3, 23-20 at 8:14. However, the Shock managed to pull away again to lead by as much as seven before Ogwumike, Toliver and veteran point guard Temeka Johnson turned up the offense to put the game in a tie at 31 all with 3:25 left in the half.
The teams traded baskets for the remainder of the period and at the break were tied 42 all. The Sparks outscored the Shock 28-19 in the second quarter.
Christmas led the Shock with 12 points and four rebounds at the half while guard Riquna Williams had 11.
The third quarter was the Toliver three-point show as the guard scored 19 points in the ten minute stanza including four three-pointers. Overall, the Sparks outscored the Shock 31-26 in the third.
Through three quarters, Toliver scored 33 points, surpassing her previous career-high in points (30) set two games ago against New York on June 28.
Even as they competed without leading scorer Skylar Diggins, out for the season with an ACL injury suffered last Sunday and the services of injured guard Odyssey Sims and veteran Tiffany Jackson-Jones, the Shock were undaunted. While they did not come out on top, they did outscore the Sparks 27-25 in the fourth quarter and were within one point of Los Angeles with 26 seconds left in the game.
The Shock were also hot from the three-point line in the game with Williams and Jordan Hooper draining treys to help their team mount a comeback in the fourth.
“We’re still trying to learn ways to play without two guards – two leading scorers – in Sims and Diggins,” said Tulsa head coach Fred Williams. “You’re talking about 40 points and 10 assists a game that we’re trying to figure out amongst the group that has never really got a lot of minutes like that. Playing Williams at a more point position is unnatural, too, so we’re still trying to fill and find our way. It’s pretty tough.”
Tulsa remains confident as a team even through the adversity.
“A lot of it stems from our staff that we’ve instilled in our practice,” said Williams. “They’ve been very resilient and not giving up – showing poise on the floor. They won’t give up. I will never let this team give up. We respect you, but we have no fear. We’re going to come out and play you 40 minutes hard.”
The Sparks are still without star forward Candace Parker and have no timetable for her return after she finishes resting. The ball is in Parker’s court and she will let the team know when she’s ready to return to action. Additionally, Farhiya Abdi and Alana Beard, both still nursing injuries, did not play. Nevertheless, the Sparks showed more verve and vitality with Toliver, Ogwumike and Erin Phililips back in the lineup this past week.
“We are definitely more confident,” said Agler. “We have helped ourselves offensively by getting Nneka [Ogwumike], Kristi [Toliver], and Erin [Phillips] back. When you know you have those people on the floor with you, your confidence raises. We are a more confident team, but we need to keep pressing forward to get better.”
Ogwumike echoed Agler’s sentiments.
“I think everyone is very focused, she said. “It’s tunnel vision in a good way. Not only did we get two wins, but it’s two back-to-back wins. This is our first back-to-back series and I think it’s great that we’re starting this off with a winning streak. We hope to maintain this focus and go in and win the third one in this three game home series.”
Ogwumike finished with 19 points and 10 rebounds, making it her second double-double of the season and her fifth consecutive game scoring in double-figures. Her younger sisters, Pepperdine players, Olivia and Erica were in the audience to watch her play. Marianna Tolo tied a career-high in points with 12 points on 5-of-7 shooting. Jantel Lavendar scored 10 points and pulled down five rebounds.
Williams led the Shock with 22 points and seven rebounds. She passed the 1,000-point career milestone in her 83rd WNBA game. Christmas added 20 points plus eight rebounds, Pierson scored 15 and dished out five assists while Hooper added 14, a career-high. Courtney Paris had a double-double for the Shock with 12 points and 10 rebounds. She is the league’s leading rebounder.
The Sparks remain at home to host the Phoenix Mercury on Sunday. Tulsa continues their road trip with a swing back East, taking on the Atlanta Dream on July 7.
The Sparks and the Shock face each other again at Tulsa on July 11.
In the meantime, Toliver said the Sparks will “rest, hydrate, enjoy the fireworks, wake up and watch film.”
“I’m just always watching games,” she continued. “always watching opponents, so that’s what I’ll do. It’s really about preparation and doing your homework so you feel comfortable going into a game. I want to know Phoenix inside and out before we play them.”
- Toliver also shot a perfect 6-6 from the free throw line. She has now made 17 consecutive free throws to begin her season.
- The Sparks scored 31 points in the third quarter, making it the most points the team has scored in a quarter this season.
- The Sparks converted on nine free throws in the first half, making it the most free throws Los Angeles has made in the first half this season. The Sparks finished shooting 24-of-30 from the free throw line, both team-highs on the season.
- The Sparks had its most points scored in a game with 98 points. Tulsa also scored the most points Los Angeles has allowed all season with 95 points.
- As a team, Los Angeles shot 52.4%, which eclipses the team’s previous game-high of 50.0% set on July 2, 2015 against San Antonio.
- The Sparks committed a season-low nine turnovers.
- After beginning the season 8-1, the Shock has dropped three consecutive games with tonight’s 98-95 loss. At 8-4, Tulsa is second in the Western Conference behind Minnesota.
- The Shock allowed 56 second half points, which are the most Tulsa has allowed this season.
- The Shock made six three-point baskets in the first half, which are the most Los Angeles has allowed in a half all season. Tulsa shot 5-of-7 from downtown in the first quarter alone. The Shock finished with 11 three-pointers, which are also the most a team has made against Los Angeles.
By the Numbers
Points in the Paint: Shock 42, Sparks 26
Second Chance Points: Shock 20, Sparks 12
Fastbreak Points: Shock 12, Sparks 10
Biggest Lead: Shock 11, Sparks 8
Lead Changes: 14
Times Tied: 13