(Los Angeles, CA.- Staples Center)—Game Preview: The L.A. Sparks (18-13) returned home after a rocky road trip that produced just one win in three games. With that said, there was no way they could afford to lose their final home game of the season versus the New York Liberty (7-23). With their big fan-base turning out in record numbers, this loyal Fan Appreciation night would hope to play a big factor in their win. At the end of the day, it was safe to say that this was a Sparks “must-win” for higher seeding purposes.
1st qtr.– Sparks All-Star Point Guard, Chelsea Gray set the offensive pace with 8 points, followed by Nneka Ogwumike with 6. Riquna Williams added a 3 pointer. Candace Parker was held to just 3 points on 1-3 shooting. The Liberty was led by their center, and WNBA All-Star, Tina Charles, with 11 points, followed by Brittany Boyd and Kia Vaughn with 4 each. The period ended with a (22- 21) advantage for the Sparks.
2nd qtr.— The Liberty, obviouslynot playing according to their won-loss record, were in control of the tempo and the critical area of rebounding for the first half of the quarter. Then, at the (4:00) minute mark left in the half, the Sparks regained the lead at (31-30). But, the Liberty went back on another run to finish strong by outscoring the Sparks with a 8-2. They were led by Tina Charles, Kia Nurse and Sugar Rodgers.
HALFTIME SCORE: Liberty 44, Sparks 38
3rd qtr.— Sparks came out ice cold in the period and didn’t manage a bucket until the 7:19 mark when CP3 scored on a runner in the lane, (47-41). On their next poss. Ogwumike scored on a drive and was fouled for an “And-1,” (47-43), Liberty. Chelsea Gray hit a jumper after a Liberty basket by Kia Vaughn. That pushed the lead back to 6. CP3 then drew a shooting foul on Tina Charles. She made both for (51-47) score. Gray then went to work on a beautiful “shake & bake” move, then turned around for a 10′ fade-away jumper (51-49), a TV time-out was then taken. After a Sparks 4 offensive rebound possession, Ogwumike finally got a pass from CP3, and scored underneath to tie the game at (51-51). On their subsequent possession, Ogwumike repeated the move and dropped in a lay-up for the Sparks first lead of the game, (53-51) at 2:55 left in the stanza. Alana Beard’s fiery and tenacious scrapping for the ball, earned her a foul and a trip to the free throw line where she calmly made both, (55-53). The Sparks were sent to the stripe again when Ogwumike was fouled in the act of shooting. She made 1 for a (56-53) lead. It didn’t last long as New York hit a BH a 3-pointer, tying the score. Gray answered back on an “And 1.” Immediately after that, she then went into her tool kit and scored on a great dribble-drive for a (61-58) lead while closing out the period.
4th qtr.— Strong and vocal crowd support was given to the Sparks with “Defense” – “Defense”, and “Let’s Go Sparks.” The Liberty tied the game at (61-61) on a field goal. A time-out was taken by the Sparks. Upon resumption, CP3 then hit her 1st 3 -pointer of the game, (64-61) Sparks at (7:40). After 2 stops in a row, the Sparks called another time-out to talk strategy. In the open court, and coming after a steal, Gray scored on another “And-1,” (67-61) Sparks. Defense then tightened up on the Liberty and they were held scoreless for 2 consecutive possessions. Meanwwhile, the Sparks were in rhythm for the final 5 minutes. New York capitalized on several miscues and converted 2 straight baskets to move the score to (67-66), Sparks. Then it was time to get work, and CP3 muscled and hustled her way to maintain possession on a loose ball. In doing so, she drew the foul for her efforts and went to shoot 2 free throws. She made one, (68-66). With 2 minutess left the Sparks took possession after a traveling violation. Then, on a textbook “give-and-go,” Gray found Ogwumike free for a lay-up, (70-66). At 1:23 Sparks came away with a rebound. Then on the “Co-Play of the Game” (POTG), Gray drained a 15′ dagger from the free throw line, (72-66). Time Out-Liberty with (:44.2) left. The other “Co-Play of the Game” was credited to to Riquna Williams for forcing a turnover on the Liberty’s most critical possession of the game. On the Sparks next possession, Gray was fouled and hit 2 free throws with (:35.7) seconds left for a (74-66) lead. New York missed a 2 pointer and the Sparks ran out the clock.
FINAL SCORE: Sparks 74, Liberty 66.