LOS ANGELES — This Sunday afternoon game did not go well for the Sparks.
The New York Liberty came out with destruction in mind. They had a 22-point lead in the fourth quarter. But the Sparks made a valiant comeback late in the game. Unfortunately, they fell short and the Liberty held on for the win, 87-79.
The Liberty started out hot. Actually, not just hot; they came out volcanic. And the Sparks were stuck in an icebox. New York began the game with a 21-2 burst.
The Sparks did wake up a bit afterwards. They managed to cut the deficit down to single figs as Jordin Canada made a pull-up J. But back-up guard Marine Johannes couldn’t miss from behind the arc. In fact, she made five threes without missing in the first 20 minutes of play. It helped boost the lead back to 51-35 by the halftime break.
New York came out hot as they made more threes to swell the lead to 25. Breanna Stewart scored 12 points in that period. And then Jonquel Jones did some work inside and got all the boards. The fourth quarter looked like extended garbage time.
But the Sparks, as they’re known to do, still fought back despite being in a seemingly hopeless situation. The Liberty were up, 80-58, about halfway through the fourth before Jordin Canada led a 15-0 run to slash the big lead down to 7 points. But Sabrina Ionescu made a three to pretty much end the rally. At the very least, the final margin looked much more respectable than anticipated.
That 21-2 start pretty much doomed the Sparks. But it was more than just that bad start. Head coach Curt Miller talked about that here:
Dearica Hamby had a great game and I asked her about it:
And Azura Stevens and Dearica were asked about their three-point shooting… or lack thereof compared to the other teams in the W.
At one point, the Liberty were on pace to break the regular season record for most threes made (which was 18). They made 10 in the first half and ended with 15. The Sparks only ended with 5 (most of them in that ill-fated comeback). That’s a 30-point difference and that is massive.
If we don’t include team rebounds, the Liberty outrebounded them by 15. The transition game didn’t get going until that fourth quarter rally; they scored 12 on the fast break (a total of 16 in the contest). The Sparks also took care of the ball (8 turnovers). But again, we go back to that turtlish beginning by Los Angeles.
Breanna Stewart led the charge for New York with 25 points. Marine Johannes scored all 15 of her points in the first half. Sabrina Ionescu ended with 14 while Jonquel Jones had a double-double (13 points, 13 rebounds).
Dearica Hamby did the most damage for the Sparks with 21 points, 6 rebounds, and three steals. Jordin Canada’s late push got her to 17 points while Azura Stevens had 13. Nneka Ogwumike didn’t play in the fourth quarter after a quiet 10 points.
The Sparks better carry their fourth quarter energy over as they’re going to play the Liberty again on Tuesday night. A different start would make this a different game for Los Angeles and that’s what they’re looking to do 48 hours from this writing. But as for now, the Sparks’ little two-game winning streak is over.