Los Angeles, CA – A 24 hour turnaround down the I-10 freeway had the Los Angeles Sparks back to Staples Center facing the New York Liberty. While they had their answers to Brittney Griner and company, they were unable to figure out what sparked up Amanda Zahui B’s hot hand. Her three pointer with over a minute remaining finished off a 13-for-16 night, as well as going 7-for-8 from deep, that propelled the Liberty to a 98-92 win.
“In a game like this, it is strange to play against a team who also is playing in a back-to-back,” Nneka Ogwumike said. “However, this was no excuse to lose either way. This game was not a fatigue of the body but a fatigue of the mind trying to close things out. We had a game of runs, but the Liberty managed to outrun us late.”
At no point did the Sparks find answers to put the game out of reach. No team managed a double digit lead, but while the Sparks would get close, suddenly Zahui B, Kia Nurse, and the rest of the Liberty offense would climb right back. Zahui B and Nurse both combined for 63 of the team’s total points, with Nurse contributing to 14 in the fourth quarter.
The Ogwumike sisters, Chiney and Nneka, combined for 46 of the teams points, while Chelsea Gray had 18.
The Sparks managed a nine point lead in the first quarter before the Liberty closed out on a 13-6 run in the final six minutes. Both teams were unable to take command in the second frame, but a no-look Gray assist to C. Ogwumike as time expired had the Sparks up 2 at halftime.
New York had some big makes in the third, but the Sparks starting five would respond trading baskets through the middle frames. Gray’s three followed by Chiney’s 15-foot baseline jumper on back-to-back takes gave the Sparks a seven point advantage. After a Liberty timeout another 12-5 run to end the third put New York back in the contest with a number of fast breaks, ending the third period tied at 72.
Los Angeles just could not get over the hump to put the game out of reach. Once the lead reached as big as five late in the fourth quarter, a number of empty possessions were at hand. This allowed yet another Liberty run, capped off by a Zahui B three pointer with just over a minute to go that gave New York a two point lead. On the ensuing possession, Gray couldn’t hit a fade away jumper from 16 feet, eventually putting the game out of reach as New York’s Kia Nurse sank two free throws giving the Liberty a four point edge and what was their biggest lead of the night with over 30 seconds remaining.
The Sparks are off until Tuesday as they are back home at Staples center facing the Washington Mystics.