The Los Angeles Sparks prevailed 82-81 on the road Wednesday in New York over the Liberty, overcoming a five-point deficit entering the fourth quarter. Chelsea Gray scored a team-high 19 points and dished five assists to lead the way, and Nneka Ogwumike added 18 points, five rebounds, four assists and two steals.
Playing the first end of a road back-to-back, starting guards Alana Beard and Odyssey Sims logged fewer than 24 minutes apiece. Riquna Williams and Essence Carson combined to play 39 minutes and shot 6-of-10 from beyond the arc, nearly matching New York’s 7-of-16 shooting from deep.
Candace Parker gave L.A. their first lead of the fourth on a driving finish with 6:02 to play. The Sparks went back ahead for good several minutes later as Gray skipped it to Williams out of the post for an open triple.
Gray poked the ball away from Amanda Zahui B (13 points, nine rebounds) after switching onto her in the post on the following possession. Using a ball screen from the top of the key, Gray kicked it to Ogwumike, who made the extra pass to Carson for another three-pointer.
New York’s five-point lead entering the fourth had been completely turned on its head. Liberty head coach Katie Smith burned a timeout with 1:36 to play hoping to draw something up to get a quick score for her team.
Tina Charles (27 points in 29 minutes) bodied her way to the rim to flip in a righty hook over Parker to make it a one possession game. Two stops later, Zahui B threw the ball away looking to connect with one of her guards on a hit ahead pass after securing a defensive rebound. Gray was fouled sunk a pair of free throws with 16 seconds to play to push the lead back to five.
The Liberty refused to lay down. Coming out of a timeout, Charles found Sugar Rodgers for a three-pointer from the top of the key. Ogwumike was fouled and made both of her free throws, but Rodgers struck once again for another three-pointer, this time off the bounce.
That final shot by Rodgers came too late for the Liberty, though, as just one second remained on the clock.
The final horn sounded after Parker inbounded the ball to Ogwumike — trap game successfully evaded. L.A. didn’t get caught looking too far ahead to its Thursday showdown with the second-place Atlanta Dream.
With Wednesday’s win, the Sparks improved to 18-11 on the season. A win Thursday could put the Sparks alone in the driver’s seat for the two seed, which would secure a double-bye into the semifinals (The Washington Mystics, 18-11, will also be in action Thursday, hosting the Seattle Storm).
The Sparks will take on Dream on Thursday at 4:00 PST.