A frustrated and fatigued Sparks’ team, who were just 24 hours removed from a win in Phoenix, could not handle a vengeful New York Liberty team, as NY defeated the Sparks 98-92 in Los Angeles on Saturday.
Zahui B leads the way for New York
Behind a big performance from the Liberty’s Amanda Zahui B, New York avenged their June 4th home loss to the Sparks. Zahui B had herself a career night, finishing with 37 points on 7-8 three-pointers, seven rebounds, and three blocks.
“Amanda shot the ball well tonight,” Sparks head coach Derek Fisher said.
“That’s not something that normally happens.”
Los Angeles was fine letting Zahui B have a night like she did as it was also noted by Fisher that she was just 5-21 from three-point range prior to this game. It was just a night that Zahui B caught a hot hand and the Sparks focused on limiting damage from the Liberty players.
The Sparks got off to a good start on the offensive side of the floor. Tierra Ruffin-Pratt scored four quick points in the opening minutes of the game. Not long afterwards, however, Ruffin-Pratt committed two personal fouls.
For Ruffin-Pratt, getting in foul trouble did not faze how she functioned on the defensive end. Ruffin-Pratt finished with six points, three rebounds, and four assists to go with her four fouls in the game.
“Fouls don’t really bother me. I’m going to be aggressive whether I have fouls or I don’t,” Ruffin-Pratt said post-game.
If those early two fouls on Ruffin-Pratt were any indication on how the rest of the game played out for the Sparks with calls, it was going to be a long night for the Sparks.
Sparks get in foul trouble
Seven players on the Sparks committed at least one foul in the game, which put the Liberty on the free throw line 26 times. The Liberty shot 88.5 percent from the line, with Kia Nurse getting to the line 16 times and missing just one free throw.
In contrast to the Liberty’s 26 appearances on the free throw line, the Sparks had a mere seven free throw attempts. This disconnect in appearances at the charity stripe between the teams was a statistic in the box score that stood out to Los Angeles.
Ruffin-Pratt and Chiney Ogwumike eventually finished the game with four fouls, while Nneka Ogwumike fouled out with six – the most in the game.
Chiney Ogwumike, who finished with 26 points and 14 rebounds, was careful with her rhetoric when addressing the disparity in calls.
“Let’s just say, in that department, the ball hasn’t bounced our way,”
Ogwumike said about the number of calls that went against the Sparks.
Coming off the win against the Mercury, the Sparks traveled back to Los Angeles on Saturday morning. The Sparks had a no excuses mentality in regards to the travel and its effects on their game against the Liberty. However, a little bit of fatigue was a factor in the game.
There were moments that the Sparks had in the game in which they had some lapses in energy. In the Liberty’s runs, the Sparks had some defensive setbacks on possessions.
As players like Nurse pushed the ball in transition for the Liberty, the Sparks were caught in a blender defensively. New York outscored Los Angeles in fast break points 15-4 in the game.
“I caught myself mostly being in help not in a lot of ball screens tonight.
“So, I think as a team we need to do better in containing the ball,” Nneka Ogwumike said. She finished with 20 points, nine rebounds, and two assists.
Offensively, the Sparks had a decent game shooting 50 percent throughout the first three quarters. The Sparks had a good run in the first quarter and another in the third.
The only issue that the Sparks had was sustaining a cushioned lead. The Liberty would not go away throughout the game, especially in the fourth quarter.
The Liberty tied the game at 72 after three-quarters of play. But they then proceeded to outscore the Sparks 26-20 to close out the game. Throughout the night, there were 11 lead changes and 11 ties in the game.
Chelsea Gray so far this season had been a peak performer for the Sparks in crunch time. In this game, though, she struggled to score in the fourth as she had just five points prior to her final shot of the game. Gray finished with 16 points, four rebounds, and six assists.
With this loss to the Liberty, their season series is now tied 1-1 and the Sparks move to a 4-3 record on the season.
The next home game for the Sparks is Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. against the Washington Mystics.