Natasha Cloud limits former running mate Kristi Toliver in blowout of Sparks

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Natasha Cloud limits former running mate Kristi Toliver in blowout originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

In three seasons together with the Mystics, Natasha Cloud and Kristi Toliver paced a dynamic backcourt that made it to back-to-back WNBA Finals and won the franchise's lone championship. The duo fed off one another as well as two traditional point guards could. Both were unselfish and took turns leading the offense, but more importantly there was a powerful bond between experienced veteran and budding young star. 

When the Sparks came to D.C. on Thursday night, it was the first time Toliver had faced her former team since leaving in free agency before the 2020 season. For Cloud, it was the first time she would go head-to-head against her former running mate.

Naturally, Cloud drew the defensive matchup against her fellow point guard to start the contest.

“That's my point guard. Forever and always,” Cloud said postgame. “Kristi did so much for this organization, so much for me the three years that she was here. She's still that OG to me as a point guard in this league and to welcome her back to give her flowers in a sense, because she did bring us a championship and she played through a lot of injuries to bring us that championship.

“So I think D.C. should always be indebted to her, especially she's a local kid, but my job tonight was to make sure that I didn't let her get a shot off, and I didn't let her get going knowing that she would come back to DC and want to get a good game.”

Toliver was held to only three points on four shots at the Entertainment and Sports Arena. The year hasn’t been up to the statistical standards that she’s set throughout her career, but still it was her second-lowest output on the season. Much of that can be attributed to Cloud slowing down the two-time WNBA Champion. But not only was she limited, the entire L.A. roster was shut down.

Throughout the night, Toliver experienced the whole process of returning to a team she called home. She saw several former teammates and friends. The Mystics also honored her with a video tribute during the game for her three seasons of service in D.C. and her role in helping Washington win their first championship.

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By the fourth quarter Toliver, Cloud and all of the former members of the 2019 team were on the bench. Washington rolled over the Sparks and won 89-71. Cloud was dancing in the Mystics corner during media timeouts. Toliver was doing what she had most of her tenure in D.C., helping teach a L.A. young group that is without some of their stars.

Emotions were there on both sides of the floor. Toliver was returning not only to her most recent championship squad, but to her home as well. It was a matchup she was looking forward to and getting to see everyone once again. The Mystics were also excited to see an old friend.

"I love Panda, she knows that the love is always real on this end," Ariel Atkins said of Toliver. "It was really good to see her because I haven't seen in a really long time, the pandemic and now she's out in L.A. So it was really good to see Panda and just feel her energy and her vibe, definitely miss her, but I am happy for her."

This time it was Washington and Cloud that came out on the winning end. They’ll meet twice more in the regular season. But even though the two teams are on opposite sides of the country, Cloud and Toliver’s relationship will continue beyond the three seasons together and this contest.

“I can text or call Kristi at any time,” Cloud said. “She's always there for me. She's always there to answer my call, especially as a young point guard in this league… And she's always there so I'm extremely blessed to have her in my corner, I'm extremely blessed to be able to have played with her and learn from her. And I'm extremely blessed to continue our relationship in this friendship.”