Short-handed Sparks rally late but fall at the finish to Liberty
Chelsea Gray’s three-point shot from the top of the key to tie the score with 9.4 seconds left fell short and Tina Charles converted two free throws at the other end to seal the New York Liberty’s 83-78 victory on Saturday afternoon.
Rookie Marine Johannes scored 17 points, making all six of her shots, to lead the Liberty, who ended a three-game losing streak. Kia Nurse added 14 points for New York (8-10).
The French guard helped New York build a seven-point lead heading into the fourth quarter. The Sparks rallied behind Gray and Chiney Ogwumike to get to within 79-78 with 17.4 seconds left. Charles made two free throws to give the Liberty a three-point lead.
Gray, who finished with 19 points, five assists and five steals, then shook off defender Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe to get an open look in an effort to tie the score.
Nnekai Ogwumike had 20 points on eight-of-16 shooting and 12 rebounds to lead Los Angeles, which had a three-game winning streak snapped. She made three of five three-pointers. Chiney Ogwumike finshed with 16 points and seven rebounds. Gray made seven of 14 shots from the field, including three of seven from long range. Tierra Ruffin-Pratt contributed 10 points and three rebounds.
The game got off to a slow start as both teams struggled to score. The Liberty bench provided a spark, scoring 11 points in the opening period to help New York take a 19-12 lead.
The Liberty led 44-37 at the half. Johannes had 11 of her points in the second quarter. She dazzled the crowd with a trio of three-pointers, including one just before the end of half as the shot clock wound down.
The Sparks were missing five players for the second consecutive game: Candace Parker (right ankle), Alana Beard (left hamstring), Alexis Jones (right knee sprain) and Maria Vadeeva (knee) to injury as well as Riquna Williams, who served the second game of her 10-game suspension for a domestic violence incident.
The Sparks play next at Atlanta on Tuesday in their last game before the All-Star break. The All-Star game is July 27 in Las Vegas. Gray is a starter and Nneka Ogwumike will be a reserve.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver took in the game with his family as well as former Liberty player Swin Cash, who is now the New Orleans Pelicans vice president of basketball operations and Team Development.
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