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Sparks beat Silver Stars 93-86 in playoff opener

LOS ANGELES — Kristi Toliver tied her career high with 29 points, including the go-ahead free throws with 45 seconds remaining, and the Los Angeles Sparks beat the San Antonio Silver Stars 93-86 in the opening game of the WNBA Western Conference semifinals on Thursday night.

Toliver was presented with the league's Most Improved Player award before the game.

Candace Parker, runner-up for the league's MVP award, added 23 points and Alana Beard had 20 for the second-seeded Sparks, who improved to 17-1 at home this season. The game was played at Galen Center, Southern California's home arena, because of a scheduling conflict at Staples Center.

Becky Hammons led the third-seeded Silver Stars with 19 points, Danielle Adams had 17 and Danielle Robinson 16.

Game 2 is Saturday in San Antonio.

The Sparks dominated the final quarter after trailing through the first three periods. Jenna O'Hea's basket gave them the lead early in the fourth as part of an 11-0 run that put the Sparks ahead 78-69.

The Silver Stars answered with a 9-2 run to tie it at 80.

From there, the Sparks closed on a 13-6 run, including 10 consecutive free throws. Toliver made two, Parker hit six in a row, and O'Hea had two to end the game.

San Antonio won three of the teams' four regular-season meetings, with the Sparks winning the last one 101-77.

The Silver Stars led 44-40 at the break behind 13 points by Adams, who helped them dominate the paint 26-14 in the half. Neither team led by more than five points, with the lead changing hands 15 times in the early going.

Clippers teammates Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, along with Olympic 200-meter champion Allyson Felix, sat courtside for the Sparks' first playoff game since 2010. Former Sparks coach Michael Cooper was with his current USC women's players.