LOS ANGELES (AP)—Kristi Toliver was suffering through one of the worst games of her career before coming up big for the Sparks in the end
The Sparks appeared headed for defeat when Temeka Johnson made a pair of free throws to give Tulsa a 75-71 lead with 16.7 seconds remaining. Toliver made a turnaround jump shot before Tulsa’s Karima Christmas missed two free throws to give the Sparks a chance.
Nneka Ogwumike rebounded the miss and got it to Toliver, who drove down the left side and put up a shot over Ivory Latta as the home crowd erupted in celebration. It was redemptive for Toliver after she committed a WNBA record 14 turnovers.
“It feels good,” Toliver said. “Throughout that game I was just letting my teammates down by being careless with the ball . I was making boneheaded plays.”
Toliver and DeLisha Milton-Jones each scored 16 points and Ogwumike added 14 points and seven rebounds for the Sparks, who won despite committing 28 turnovers. Candace Parker sat on the bench for a large stretch of the fourth quarter and finished with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
“Good teams just find a way,” Sparks coach Carol Ross said. “I told (Toliver) in the locker room, `Nothing else can go wrong for you. You’ve used up all your wrong chips.’ It was time for something good to happen. For her to be able to keep her head up and have the confidence to take the shot says a lot about her character.”
It was another last-second heartbreak loss for Tulsa, which remains winless at 0-4.
Johnson sank a 3-pointer to give Tulsa a 70-69 lead and made four free throws in the final 20.1 seconds, the last two for a 75-71 edge. Riquna Williams came off the bench to score 19 points but Tulsa lost its eighth straight game dating to last season.
“It hurts,” Williams said. “Teary. Painful. (It’s) emotional but it’s not going to stop us.”
Tulsa has trouble closing out games. It lost to Washington on Saturday despite going on a 14-0 run in the fourth quarter and to Phoenix last Tuesday in the final seconds.
“Last possession, rebounds,” Williams said. “We’ve got to box out. We’re not big, but we just can’t jump up there and get it. We’ve got to find a body.”
Williams scored eight of Tulsa’s 19 points in the third quarter to help Tulsa come out of it with a 55-52 lead. She made the last of three consecutive baskets on a 3-pointer gave the Shock its first lead at 45-44.
Tulsa fell into an 11-0 hole to start the game and shot 30 percent from the field in the first half but clawed back to trail, 40-36, at halftime. Latta made a 3-pointer to cap a 10-2 run and the Shock held the Sparks to two field goals in the final five minutes of the first half.
Johnson had 13 points. Tulsa rookie Glory Johnson, the fourth pick in last year’s draft, was matched up at times with No.1 pick Ogwumike and finished with seven points.
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