Sparks-Fever Preview


While the Los Angeles Sparks would love to get MVP candidate Candace Parker back on the court, Kristi Toliver appears more than capable of leading the way for the time being.

Parker is uncertain to be available again as Toliver and the Sparks continue a five-game road trip against the Indiana Fever, who try to avoid a fourth consecutive loss in the series Thursday night.

Averaging a team-leading 18.1 points and 9.2 rebounds, Parker (wrist) has missed each of Los Angeles' three contests since scoring a WNBA-record 23 points in the All-Star game July 27. While her absence was felt in a 96-89 loss to Tulsa on Friday, the Sparks cruised to a 75-57 win over Washington on Sunday before getting by Connecticut 74-72 on Tuesday.

Toliver was at her best against the Sun, scoring 19 points and shooting 8 of 16 and while grabbing a season-high nine rebounds. She had 23 points and went 8 of 15 from the field versus the Shock, and scored 21 in the All-Star game.

"She's got a real skill set offensively. But because she plays behind Parker, it's not always on display. But she's been big. She's stepped in to a starting role and really has done a great job with it," coach Carol Ross said.

"She's got a lot of confidence and moxie. It doesn't matter what happens in the first 38 minutes of the game. When things are on the line and tough, she wants the ball. We want her to have the ball."

Toliver came up especially big down the stretch, making a pair of difficult jumpers in the last two minutes.

"That's where I thrive and enjoy the most," she said. "I shoot the ball better with a hand in my face. I think I need more heat on (me)."

Toliver averaged 20.0 points as Los Angeles (14-7) swept last season's two-game set against Indiana (10-10), including a 77-74 road win last July 12.

The Fever, winners of nine of 12 following a seven-game losing streak, are coming off a home-and-home sweep of Chicago. Tamika Catchings had 18 points and eight rebounds and Shavonte Zellous scored 14 in a 64-58 road victory Tuesday.

Indiana shot 36.5 percent but held the Sky to 36.7.

"We're starting to play really, really good defense," said coach Lin Dunn, whose team forced 18 turnovers and surrendered two fast-break points. "That's how you win when you're not shooting the ball well."

The Fever now return home, where they have taken five of seven. Indiana ranks last in the league with 69.5 points per game, but is holding opponents to a WNBA-low 67.8.

Los Angeles opened 0-4 on the road before winning five of its last six there.

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