After trailing by six points at the half, the Los Angeles Sparks outscored the New York Liberty by 14 in the second half en route to a 74-66 win in their final regular season home game of the season.
The two teams met for the second time in six days — L.A. escaped with a one-point victory over the Liberty last week in New York.
Riquna Williams got her first start of the season and her seventh as a Spark. Williams is coming off back-to-back games in which she logged 20+ minutes off the bench for the first time all season.
Playing with just eight healthy players, the Liberty came out looking to push the pace. Tina Charles (21 points, seven rebounds, three assists) drilled a 3-pointer early in the shot clock, then set up Kia Nurse for a triple from the opposite wing moments later to put New York up five.
A Candace Parker driving finish and a Nneka Ogwumike steal and score re-energized the home crowd coming out of the break. Chelsea Gray and Bria Hartley then went back-and-forth to close the quarter. Hartley banked a floater off the glass and hit a three from the left wing. Gray came right back with an old fashioned three-point play and a high-arching shot off glass just before the end of the third.
Gray and Hartley continued to look to attack for their respective teams. Gray euro-stepped right around Hartley to complete another three-point play in transition to put the Sparks up six several minutes into the fourth. Hartley came right back in transition looking to answer with a score of her own. New York’s guards weren’t the only ones looking to run on the Sparks, though, as Charles hustled down the floor to collect Hartley’s miss and lay it back in.
Kiah Stokes got the Liberty within one late before Gray struck again, finding Ogwumike (20 points, eight rebounds) for a layup and drilling a step back to put L.A. up six with 44 seconds to play. Williams stole the ensuing inbounds pass, and Gray (game-high 26 points, five assists) hit two free throws to ice the win. Parker was key in that stretch as well, collecting two offensive rebounds in the final 2:30.
With Tuesday’s win, the Sparks have secured a top-six finish, meaning they will host a first round single elimination playoff game at worst.
The Sparks will hit the road Wednesday for a two-game swing through Washington and Connecticut to wrap up the regular season, first taking on the Mystics on Friday 4 p.m. PT on NBA TV.