Kristi Toliver set a franchise record with 43 points Friday night to lead the Los Angeles Sparks to a 98-95 win over the Tulsa Shock.
The seven-year pro out of Maryland broke Lisa Leslie’s mark of 41 points when she made two free throws with nine seconds left. Nneka Ogwumike added 19 points and 10 rebounds for the Sparks (2-7).
Tulsa’s Riquna Williams put up a contested air ball with one second left. The Shock (8-4) have dropped three straight since losing All-Star point guard Skylar Diggins with a season-ending knee injury.
“I was watching every game,” Toliver said. “I wanted to be as big a part as I could be. I knew just from watching ways that I could come and contribute immediately. … I knew they were going to need my scoring on a night-in, night-out basis. I was doing my homework while I was (overseas) and trying to stay engaged. When I first got here the mentality was to be aggressive.”
Toliver, in just her third game since returning from EuroBasket 2015 where she played for the Slovak Republic, hit 15 of 24 shots, including seven of 12 three-pointers, and made all six of her free throws. The Sparks went 11 of 21 behind the arc as the teams combined for 19 three-pointers. Toliver also matched her career high with nine assists.
Tulsa, coming off a 31-point loss in Phoenix on Thursday, used a 21-6 run and had five three-pointers in the first quarter for a 23-14 lead. But the Sparks rallied to tie the score at 42 at the half.
In the third quarter, Toliver hit all four of her three-pointers and scored 19 points, surpassing 2,300 points for her career, and Los Angeles took a 73-68 lead. The Sparks were up seven when the Shock scored six straight before Toliver’s 12-footer.
“I was doing a lot less thinking and a lot more using my instincts,” she said. “When in doubt, use basketball instincts. If the shot was there it was a shot, and if the pass was there it was a pass.
“I really just didn’t want to force anything, just let the game come, and I was able to get in a rhythm in the third.”
Williams had an offensive rebound basket with 26 seconds left to pull Tulsa within 96-95 before Toliver hit some clutch free throws. Williams had 22 points and Karima Christmas added 20. Rookie Jordan Hooper had a career-high 14 points with four 3s, but with Toliver guarding her on the final possession she didn’t get a touch.