Los Angeles, CA -- The Los Angeles Sparks took on the Tulsa Shock Friday evening in what turned out to be a record-breaking night. Both the Sparks and Tulsa were playing in back-to-back games.
Los Angeles was coming off of a win and looking to build on their recent success, but Tulsa was looking to get back into the win column after dropping their previous two games.
"We are still trying to find a combination of the players that we have now since we lost Skylar for the season," said Tulsa coach Fred Williams.
The Sparks were flying high in Los Angeles Friday night, as Kristi Toliver caught fire scoring a career-high 43 points.
Los Angeles opened up the game slowly, giving up 23 points to the Shock, 15 of those which came from the hot 71% shooting of the Shock from behind the arc.
Nneka Ogwumike and Toliver led the Sparks in the second quarter. Ogwumike dropped nine points, and Toliver added 10 points, as the Sparks and Shock finished the half tied at 42 points apiece.
Los Angeles came out aggressive in the third quarter, driving to the basket and getting to the free-throw line behind the superb play of Toliver. She was unstoppable in the third, exploding for 19 points, including four three-pointers.
The Sparks, who often seem to struggle in the third quarter, were able to head into the fourth up five points largely because of Toliver, who already had 33 points. Veteran point guard Temeka Johnson had nothing but great things to say about her teammate Toliver.
"She got hot, she felt it, and she was in a good rhythm," said Johnson. "She played smart, she knocked down some key shots and big shots, but it wasn't anything forced it was within her, and it was great, its good to have her back."
The fourth quarter brought about excitement as both teams continued to hit big shots. The short-handed Shock were in this game the entire way, and put up quite a fight last night. They were led by guard Riquna Williams, who's role has changed tremendously in the past few games, after losing their leader Skylar Diggins for the season to a torn ACL.
"Absolutely my role has changed, and I am still adjusting to it," said Williams. "I am not used to shooting the ball as much, but I know my teammates have my back." Williams finished the game with 22 points and seven rebounds.
Heading into this game the Sparks were 1-7, but just about every game that they have lost has still been a close one, seemingly they needed someone to help them close out the game. The 43-point outburst by Toliver helped Los Angeles do just that.
The Sparks needed every bit of Toliver's 43 points and nine assists, including two huge free throws with 9.5 seconds left, as she moved into the record books for most points scored in a Sparks uniform. Toliver surpassed Sparks all-time great Lisa Leslie.
"She is one of the most decorated basketball players in our game and just to be mentioned in that category is an extraordinary thing," said Toliver. "I am just really happy that it came with a win."
Sparks coach Brian Agler was not only pleased with Toliver's scoring, but her all-around game.
"Kristi's performance was fabulous," said 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."
The final score was 98-95 as the crowd went wild at the Staples Center. Two consecutive wins have brought about a great mindset for the Sparks as explained by Oguwimike: "I think everyone is very focused. 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."