Tolliver Lifts Sparks
Sparks starting point guard Kristi Tolliver overcame 14 turnovers to nail the game-winning three-pointer as time expired, lifting the Sparks over the Shock, 76-75, at Staples Center on May 29.
After the Sparks opened the game on an 11-0 run the Shock slowly battled back with the help of their pressure defense that forced a season-high 28 turnovers by the Sparks to take a three point lead, 55-52, into the fourth quarter.
“I thought we started a little slow," Head Coach Gary Kloppenburg said. "I thought once we got our defense, it brought us back in, especially with forcing turnovers.”
With the Sparks up 69-67 with 2:02 left to play in the fourth, Kayla Pedersen missed two free throws that would have tied the game. After a Sparks turnover on the other end, Riquna Williams nailed a corner three that put the Shock up one, 70-69, with 1:16 to play in the game.
Williams had a game-high 19 points on 8-of-16 shooting from the field to go along with five rebounds and five steals in her first big game of her rookie campaign.
Pedersen followed Williams' three by going 1-of-2 from the line to put the Shock up two, 71-69, with 1:07 left to play. After two pairs of Temeka Johnson free throws sandwiched two makes from the charity stripe by Candace Parker, the Shock were up 75-73 with 16.7 seconds left in the game.
Karima Christmas, who had her best game of this young season as she tallied nine points in just under 19 minutes, was fouled on the ensuing inbounds pass and missed both free throws giving the Sparks a chance to tie or go for the win with 6.7 seconds left in the game and no timeouts.
Tolliver took a pass after the missed free throw coast-to-coast and made a step-back three-pointer as time expired to hand the Shock their fourth loss of the season and improve the Sparks' record to 4-1.
“Last possession we need a rebound, and we need to box out," Williams said. "You can’t just jump up there and get it. It’s painful and emotional, but it’s not going stop us.”
The Shock have lost the last three games by a combined six points.
“Next game we have to find a way to keep our mentality and intensity up," Kloppenburg said. "Eventually we’ll get a win. We hate to lose, but we were close and eventually it will happen.”