Los Angeles Sparks guard Kristi Toliver returned back stateside after playing for the Slovakian National Team earlier this month. She proved to be X-factor today, where she scored five consecutive points in overtime, including making a go-ahead three with 1:47 left in the game to give L.A. an 97-85 lead, which they never gave up from that point on.
After the final buzzer sounded, it was 92-89 L.A. But really, it shouldn't have been that close.
The Sparks never were behind in this game at all. Not in the first half, when they built up a 47-32 lead on the Shock. But then Tulsa started its big run in the third quarter, shooting 11-of-19 from the floor while controlling the Sparks to 7-of-18 shooting. Tulsa also outscored L.A. 32-18, helping turn a 47-32 deficit to a manageable 65-64 game heading into the fourth.
Skylar Diggins and Odyssey Sims not surprisingly were the big catalysts in the third quarter comeback, where they combined for 20 points in that period.
Tulsa Shock wing Jordan Hooper made back-to-back threes early in the fourth quarter to help give the Black & Gold a 72-68 lead, their first in the game. But Tulsa was unable to get the lead any bigger from then on, thanks to shots that got blocked, or turnovers. Ultimately, we got to overtime, and to the crucial plays in that period which determined the result of this game.
For the Sparks, even though they won this game in overtime, it's still disappointing to see how they let this lead slip away. They're now tied for fourth in the Western Conference, but this team doesn't seem to have what it takes to make it to the Finals, despite their overall talent level.
For the Shock, this game is also a disappointment. I get that making a big comeback takes a lot of energy, but the Sparks were basically asking to lose this game for practically the entire fourth quarter. The Shock should have won this game considering how they played. Doing so would have helped take down a huge monkey off their backs, namely the fact that they haven't been .500 since 2009.
But I'll finish this recap a bit more positively.
As some of you may know, I am also on SB Nation's Bullets Forever, the network's Washington Wizards site. Though the Wizards don't exactly have a 1-to-1 equivalent with the Shock based on how they rebuilt (especially with veterans), there are some major parallels that these two teams may ultimately or already share.
First, like the Shock, who haven't been at (or above) .500 since 2009, the Wizards also were under .500 for over four years (2009-2013). Eventually the Wizards went above .500, clinched a spot in the Playoffs, managed to advance a round, and made some noise there too. All in the same season.
Maybe I have a soft spot for Tulsa to the point where the Black & Gold are a "second team" of sorts when it comes to my WNBA watching. But I do feel that this team is gradually turning a corner in the standings, like the Wizards did last season.
Once they hit .500, I think the wins could actually come easier to this group. Right now, .500 could very well be a psychological barrier that the players are thinking about. Given how close they are to that point, and how long it's been since they have been there, it has to be hard NOT to. Then, if the Shock makes the playoffs this season, the Black & Gold will be playing with house money, like the Wizards did. They would be in a can't-lose situation, at least in the national eye.
There's another major parallel these two teams have. Both have young backcourts filled with perennial All-Star potential. The Washington Wizards have John Wall and Bradley Beal starting their games. Both figure to be in D.C. for the foreseeable future. They both were instrumental in leading the Wizards to the NBA Playoffs last season, and are affectionately known by Wizards fans as the "House of Guards."
Even the national media is rolling with it, so really, they're the NBA's "House of Guards."
Skylar Diggins and Odyssey Sims could very well be the WNBA's "House of Guards" and they've certainly given fans reason to believe so. Diggins has stepped up her game big time from her rookie season. She works very well with Sims who also is having a solid year. They complement each other nice nicely.
I put out a tweet contemplating the idea to Monumental Network color analyst / CSN Wizards pre/post-game host Christy Winters-Scott, and she agrees.
Of course, Diggins and Sims haven't been together for the Shock as long as Wall and Beal have for the Wizards. Their individual games aren't exactly the same either.
But I definitely see Tulsa's WNBA and D.C.'s NBA backcourts representing what professional basketball will be like for the foreseeable future.
Some more notes:
- Sims had 10 assists to go with her 17 points. She also assisted on both of Jordan Hooper's threes in that crucial fourth quarter run.
- Diggins scored 29 points, and was one point shy of her third straight 30 point game. She has also scored at least 12 points in ALL but one game this season.
- I'm really impressed with Shock center Courtney Paris, and she has found a team where her strengths are a good fit with what they're trying to build. Paris scored 12 points and grabed 15 rebounds for the night. She even had three blocks.
- Given Paris' performance this season, two words come to mind: Liz WHO?!!
- This was the Shock's third consecutive game that ended in overtime. And the third time wasn't the charm, given the result.
- Stat-wise for the Sparks, Nneka Ogwumike led their scorers with 22 points, while Jantel Lavender had a double double, scoring 16 points and grabbing 11 rebounds.