Kristi Toliver got a new job in the afternoon, and then helped led her current team to its third straight win in the evening.
All in a day’s work.
The Sparks shooting guard — who was named an assistant coach for the Dallas Mavericks earlier in the day — came through in the clutch to send Tuesday’s game into overtime, which L.A. eventually won, and she said she felt Kobe on that shot. On Thursday, she got a Kobe assist, as the Sparks once again put the ball in her hands for the game-winner. It missed, but Nneka Ogwumike found the ball for a putback and the 66-64 victory.
Ogwumike led the team with 17 points, six coming in the fourth quarter. She also added an assist, accounting for eight of the team’s 10 points in the period. Ogwumike had to play 36 minutes as the Sparks unexpectedly allowed a 17-point third-quarter lead to become a tie game with less than a minute to play.
Toliver chipped in with 10 points and a game-high five assists, her perfect shooting night spoiled by the final missed jumper. She was a team-high plus-10 on the evening, complementing her offense by drawing multiple charges.
It didn’t look like the game would be in the balance late. The Sparks had great defensive intensity from the jump, a welcome sight after having to play from behind for most of Tuesday’s game. They limited the Dream to nine points in the first quarter and forced eight turnovers in the period, with led to eight points of their own as they built a 16-9 lead. L.A. also kept Atlanta off the offensive glass, limiting the visitors to one offensive rebound in the first 10 minutes.
Te’a Cooper had a great stretch off the bench for the Sparks. She completely shut down the Dream offense at the head of the snake, forcing Atlanta to scrap their plays on the fly because Odyssey Sims couldn’t get any air space. Even when the Dream tried to screen Cooper off Sims, the second-year Spark fought her way through every pick to negate the advantage.
There was a good flow for the Sparks, as they were moving the ball and getting quality shots. Were it not for tough shot making from Candice Dupree, the fourth-leading scorer in WNBA history, the Sparks would have built a much bigger lead to start. Alas, the midrange queen hit a series of contested jumpers, and Courtney Williams found her rhythm on the same shots as well, to keep the Dream within reach.
The Sparks pushed their lead in the third, going up by as many as 17. That came apart slowly, mostly due to Aari McDonald’s 15 second-half points. She had seven points in the fourth, nearly equaling L.A.’s mark, but the Sparks were able to just hold on.
The team now heads on the road for a six-game trip.