This time around, the Sparks wanted to leave nothing to chance. Yet once again, they did.
Two nights after overcoming a 10-point deficit to eke out a win in overtime against a struggling Atlanta team, Los Angeles escaped with a 66-64 victory over the Dream for its third straight victory and extended its winning streak at Staples Center to 18 games.
The Sparks (9-13 overall, 7-7 at home) moved to within a half game of Dallas (10-13) for the eighth and final playoff spot.
The last month of the regular season will test their mettle. Eight of their remaining 10 games are on the road, including back-to-back contests at Eastern Conference-leading Connecticut, which has knocked the Sparks out of the playoffs two years in a row.
“This was a focus win,” Ogwumike said. “Even though I thought Kristi’s shot was going in, I had to play to the finish. Atlanta is tough, they never gave up. We’re excited that we were able to come out of this homestand undefeated.”
Los Angeles went scoreless for nearly four minutes late in the fourth quarter, allowing Atlanta to rally from a 17-point deficit and tie the score 64-64 on a three-pointer by Crystal Bradford with 25.1 seconds left.
Ogwumike led the way with 17 points and Amanda Zahui B and Toliver had 10 apiece, and Erica Wheeler and Te’a Cooper each added seven.
Atlanta point guard Odyssey Sims, who had 26 points two nights earlier, was held to one point in the rematch. The Sparks led 36-28 at halftime.
Earlier in the day, Toliver confirmed that she has been hired as an assistant coach for the Dallas Mavericks under new coach Jason Kidd, who spent eight of his 19 NBA seasons in Dallas.
Toliver, already a two-time WNBA champion, served parts of two seasons as an assistant for the Washington Wizards under coach Scott Brooks while she was playing for the Washington Mystics.
She has won titles with Los Angeles (2016) and Washington (2019).
Toliver is one of six female assistant coaches in the NBA, joining Becky Hammon (San Antonio), Lindsay Harding (Sacramento), Sonia Raman (Memphis), Jenny Boucek (Indiana) and Teresa Weatherspoon (New Orleans).
“Thank you all for the love and support entering this new journey with the Dallas Mavericks,” Toliver tweeted 21/2 hours before tip-off Thursday. “So thankful for this opportunity and can’t wait to get to work.”
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.