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Kristi Toliver powers Sparks as L.A. stops Silver Stars

LOS ANGELES -- Kristi Toliver matched career highs with 29 points and six 3-pointers made, Alana Beard added 21 points, and the Los Angeles Sparks beat San Antonio 101-77 on Thursday night for their eighth straight victory and ended the Silver Stars' 12-game winning streak.

DeLisha Milton-Jones had 14 points as the Sparks (18-6) got their longest win streak since an eight-game run in June 2006. Los Angeles, which improved to 11-1 at Staples Center, had lost the first three meetings against San Antonio -- including its only home defeat, on June 24.

"Of course it was (talked about)," Beard said. "Yesterday we talked about it. They definitely had our number. They caught us at a time when we were trying to figure ourselves out defensively. But the month off that we had, we really worked on our team defense, and that showed tonight."

Danielle Robinson had a season-high 22 points to lead the Silver Stars (16-6), and Shenise Johnson had 15. Leading scorers Sophia Young and Becky Hammon combined for 14 points as neither played much late in the blowout.

Sparks star forward Candace Parker had six points, 10 rebounds and six assists in fewer than 18 minutes. Toliver also had six assists on a night that coach Carol Ross said produced the team's best ball movement of the season.

Toliver, who shot 9-for-30 in the teams' three previous meetings, was 10-for-14 this time -- including 6-for-7 on 3s.

"We didn't want to get swept," Toliver said. "That was an added thing, but we were just trying to come out defensively and play really well and just be really aggressive. We did that against Indiana and Seattle. It wasn't just San Antonio. They were the team in front of us, and we didn't like how the first three games went. That was an added bonus."

Los Angeles shot a season-high 57 percent from the field and matched a season best with 10 3-pointers. The Sparks also moved one game behind defending champion Minnesota for first place in the Western Conference.

Toliver made three 3-pointers in a 62-second stretch late in the third quarter to give the Sparks their biggest lead at 87-53. Los Angeles shot nearly 59 percent in the first three quarters.

"They shot lights out," Young said. "I thought our defense was terrible. We weren't focused at all. We've got to give them credit. They played much better than we did. We can definitely play much better basketball than that."

San Antonio never got closer than 22 points in the second half.

"If I had the answer, we would have made the push," San Antonio coach Dan Hughes said.

It was San Antonio's first loss since June 22 and its fourth game in seven days.

"We're playing so much, the most important thing was to make no excuses," Hughes said. "Tonight, L.A. played very well and we didn't get it done. But we've got another game in 48 hours. We're playing so much basketball right now. You can't linger whether it was a good game or a bad."

Toliver and Beard each scored 16 points in the first half, and went a combined 5-for-5 on 3s as the Sparks took a 59-35 lead into halftime, setting a franchise record for points in the first half.

Beard scored 11 points in the second quarter and helped Los Angeles maintain at least an 18-point lead over the final 6 minutes of the first half. Toliver converted a left-handed layup on a pretty give-and-go play with Jantel Lavender before Ebony Hoffman sank a 3-pointer for the 24-point halftime lead.

Toliver made three 3s in the last 2:16 of the first quarter, the last of which gave the Sparks a 29-17 lead going into the second quarter. The Sparks forced the Silver Stars into five turnovers and four fouls in the first 10 minutes.

Los Angeles' previous record for points in the first half was 55 at Connecticut on May 24, 2003, and against Utah on Aug. 4, 2002.