Nneka Ogwumike finished with 25 points and 15 rebounds and Candace Parker added 14 points and 12 rebounds to lead the Los Angeles Sparks to a 79-72 win over the New York Liberty in overtime, tonight in front of a stunned crowd at Madison Square Garden.
The Liberty, with 1:20 left in the fourth quarter, led 65-57 when the Sparks began to methodically take all the air out of the building. Los Angeles went on an 8-0 run, capped by a Kristi Toliver step-back three-point shot with 21.5 seconds left in regulation, to tie the game at 65-65. Tina Charles missed a 16-footer, at the buzzer, which would have won the game.
In overtime, with the Sparks holding a 68-65 lead, the Liberty’s Sugar Rodgers drained a 3-ball to tie the game. Rodgers then picked off a poor pass, from Sparks’ forward Evgenia Belyakova, and finished a pretty layup to give the lead back to New York. The Sparks, however, would score the next seven points, while the Liberty failed to execute on offense, en route to securing the victory.
Charles led the Liberty with 17 points along with 16 rebounds, her third consecutive double-double.
It’s the first loss of the season for the Liberty, their record is now 2-1. The Sparks improved to a league-best 3-0.
The Liberty turned the ball over three times in overtime, leading to five points for the Sparks. Shot selection, especially in the fourth quarter and overtime, was a major problem tonight for New York.
“We didn’t execute down the stretch.” said a frustrated Liberty head coach Bill Laimbeer afterwards.
The Liberty struggled early with execution, missing their first six attempts from the field before getting on the scoreboard, as the Sparks did a good job of forcing them into low-percentage shots and poor spacing. New York turned the ball over four times in the first quarter while shooting 5 for 17 from the field for 29 percent.
New York, led by their second unit, opened the second quarter with an inspired 11-0 run to take a 26-20 lead. The Sparks, trailing 28-24, took advantage of some sloppy play by the Liberty, to pull off a 7-0 run to reclaim the lead. The Liberty’s Carolyn Swords would convert on a layup to tie the game at 34 as the two teams went into halftime.
Tina Charles and Sugar Rodgers, in the first half, shot a combined 3 of 15 for six points.
Both teams, in the third quarter, struggled to create much in separation on the scoreboard. The Liberty, however, were able to get Tina Charles going offensively. Charles scored six points in the third, including back-to-back field goals on a hook shot and a turnaround jumper. The Sparks, with Parker resting on the bench, were kept afloat by the scoring of Ogwumike.
The Liberty, despite missing a handful of missed shots from close range and poor shooting from the free throw line, took a 50-45 lead into the fourth quarter.
Both teams came into tonight, 2-0, on the season. The Liberty were looking for their first 3-0 start since 2007, they won their first five games of that season.
Sugar Rodgers, averaging 21.5 points per game, came into tonight looking to build on her hot start to the season. It took awhile for Rodgers to get going, but the fan favorite finished with 13 points, including five in overtime.
Three-point shooting was supposed to be on display between two of the top long-range shooting teams in the WNBA. The Liberty shot 4 of 15 (26.7%) from behind the three-point line, the Sparks didn’t fare much better at 5 for 21 (23.8%).
Who’s Got Next?
The Liberty will host the Atlanta Dream, Tuesday at a special time of 11am. The Sparks travel to Rosemont, Illinois to face the Chicago Sky.