Los Angeles, CA – On June 21, 1997, the LA Sparks vs the New York Liberty took place in the WNBA’s inaugural game. The Liberty won that contest, 67-57, at the Inglewood Forum. Fast forward twenty-five years later, the same two teams went head-to-head in a rematch to mark the 25th Anniversary. This matchup went down to the wire. As in the first game played twenty five year ago, the Liberty won again, 76-73, in Los Angeles.
“It’s a big moment,” said Erica Wheeler. “I’m definitely proud of it. I’m glad to be on this team especially on the WNBA’s 25th Anniversary.”
In the fourth quarter, the LA Sparks were down by one, 73-74, with 24.8 seconds left.
Kristi Toliver shot a step back, but was blocked by Rebecca Allen.
Toliver fouled Allen where she hit two free throws at the charity strike to put the Liberty up by three, 76-73, with 8.2 seconds left.
In the final possession, Head Coach Derek Fisher drew up an isolation play for Wheeler, but she was blocked by Allen near the top of the key.
Wheeler got her own rebound and kicked it out to Bria Coffey. Coffey had a good look at the basket, but it was off the back of the rim.
The LA Sparks were frustrated offensively, shooting 25 percent going 6/24 FGs from distance.
“We have to find a way to be free offensively,” said Fisher. “Individually and collectively. As players and as coaches. We’ll put the time in.”
On the defensive end, second chance opportunities were the killer for the LA Sparks. They neglected to cover the perimeter as the Liberty continued to grab offensive rebounds to pass it back out for the open 3’s.
The Liberty had 19 second chance points (6/9 FGs) while the sparks had 0 second chance points (0/4 FGs).
“We didn’t convert on the opportunities that we had. We have a few days to correct some things and to prepare for our next one,” said Fisher.
The LA Sparks were down by fourteen, 39-53, around the 7:30 mark of the third quarter. They fought their way back to come within two, 56-58, at the one minute mark, but the Liberty still managed to win the game.
In addition, the Liberty outrebounded the LA Sparks 38 to 27.
Free throws also played a huge factor with the LA Sparks. Shooting for 5/10 FTs and 50 percent from the charity strike, while the Liberty hit 18/20 FTs going for 90 percent from the free throw line.
The LA Sparks forced 30 turnovers and converted 37 points off those turnovers.
There were 9 lead changes and 9 ties.
Sparks legend, Tamecka Dixon, was also honored during the WNBA anniversary celebration.
The LA Sparks take on the Washington Mystics on Thursday, June 24 at 7:30 p.m.