LOS ANGELES (AP)—Kristi Toliver scored 26 points and Candace Parker added 12 points, five rebounds and four blocks to help the Los Angeles Sparks win their ninth straight game with an 87-62 victory over the New York Liberty on Saturday night.
The Sparks (19-6) led wire-to-wire and got another excellent game from Toliver, who scored 14 points in the fourth quarter. Toliver, coming off a career-high tying 29-point game, made back-to-back 3-pointers to push the lead to 77-58 and another to make it 82-60.
L.A.’s last nine-game win streak was in 2003, when it started the season 9-0.
Parker scored 10 points in the second half after she missed seven of her first eight shots of the game and DeLisha Milton-Jones added 12 points.
Nneka Ogwumike, the WNBA’s leading scorer and rebounder, briefly left the game in the third quarter with an apparent knee injury but returned and finished with 10 points, seven rebounds and five assists.
Toliver has played a big part of this streak and she sees the cohesiveness in the post-Olympic break.
“When you win, it’s easy for people to identify their roles and accept their roles,” Toliver said. “Obviously during this win streak, people have been able to get a feel for what their supposed to do, and doing it well. Finally, everybody has embraced their role and (they) understand their role and know what they need to bring. We’re a very tough team to beat when we’re all on the same page and we understand that.”
Toliver went 5 for 8 from 3-point range and is 11 for 15 over the past two games.
“I’m kind of accustomed to (seeing) it now,” Ogwumike said of Toliver. “She still leaves my jaw dropping. Having a scorer like that—I wouldn’t even call her a shooter, she’s a scorer. Being able to play off of someone like that is remarkable.”
Cappie Pondexter led the Liberty (9-14) with 20 points. Plenette Pierson added 16 points and 10 rebounds for New York, which did not get any closer than 56-54 in the third quarter. The Liberty, which made 13 3-pointers on Thursday, went 4 for 17 from 3-point range and shot 37 percent from the field.
New York coach John Whisenant wasn’t pleased with his team’s 19 turnovers and its inability to attack the Sparks’ zone.
“Much of it was our inability to properly attack the zone,” Whisenant said. “That leads to frustration. And we didn’t penetrate. They’re long, lengthy and athletic and they’re a good team.
“Our two losses since the (Olympic) break have both been high-turnover games. When we’ve taken care of the ball, we’ve won. You can give L.A. credit or give us un-credit.”
Pondexter sank three jumpers during a 14-4 run in the third quarter that brought New York to 56-54 on Alex Montgomery’s layup off a Sparks turnover. But L.A. pulled ahead to 65-57 on a corner 3-pointer by Alana Beard and a left hand layup by Parker after Marissa Coleman saved it from going out of bounds.
New York wouldn’t get any closer than that in the fourth quarter. Whisenant thought his team’s fourth game in eight days was a factor but added they were running into a hot L.A. team.
Whisenant was impressed with Toliver.
“She always could shoot,” Whisenant said. “We have a mismatch there with Leilani (Mitchell) and if I put a bigger defender on (her) to bother her more, we’re not as efficient running our offense. It’s a chess game that we lost tonight.”
The Sparks took a 45-38 lead into halftime despite giving up 22 points in the paint with Parker on the bench for most of the second quarter. The Liberty outrebounded the Sparks, 21-15, in the first half and recorded 12 assists on 15 field goals.
Pondexter brought New York to 33-32 on a 3-pointer before L.A. ended the first half on a 12-6 run. Jantel Lavender scored six of those 12, including a bank shot in the paint and a baseline jumper.
Toliver scored 10 of the Sparks’ 25 first quarter points. New York pulled to 19-18 on Leilani Mitchell’s 3-pointer but Milton-Jones came back with a 3-pointer. Alana Beard forced a turnover on New York’s next possession and Toliver sank a 3-pointer for a 25-18 lead.