— by Gabe Lorenzo
NEW YORK — The second quarter turned into a Garden party for the New York Liberty on the way to another victory in the Big Apple.
Buoyed by a 20-0 run in the second quarter, the New York Liberty went on to run away with an 83-69 victory over the Los Angeles Sparks to record their third consecutive win on Sunday. Tina Charles led all scorers with 21 points.
As stellar as New York’s second quarter was, its first was almost equally as worrisome, as the defending champion Sparks made their first six field goals of the game en route to taking a 27-16 lead after the first 10 minutes. Two-time WNBA MVP Candace Parker led the Sparks, scoring 10 of her 14 total points in the first stanza.
The momentum remained with the Sparks after an Odyssey Sims layup extended Los Angeles’ lead back to 11, 33-22, at the 6:39 mark, but then the Liberty turned the game on its head with the game-changing 20-0 outburst. New York regained the lead at 34-33 on an Epiphanny Prince three-pointer that came about after two jump balls that the Liberty won on missed shots on consecutive possessions. New York ended up outscoring the Sparks 28-8 in the second overall.
New York Liberty head coach Bill Laimbeer was not surprised about the hot start by the Sparks, saying that his team had to have poise and stay the course to get back into the game.
“We played very hard,” Laimbeer said in the postgame press conference. “They got off to a tremendous start and made every shot.”
In terms of defending the Sparks after their effective first quarter, he explained, “We extended our defense. The gameplan was to keep them perimeter. Once we figured that out, they didn’t make the shots anymore. We got rebounds and ran the ball down their throats.”
The Liberty’s extended defense forced the Sparks into its worst quarter of the season, as Los Angeles committed 7 turnovers and shot just 4-of-18 from the field in the second period. After scoring 10 points in the first quarter, Parker was held to just four more points the rest of the game.
The Liberty did not trail for the rest of the game but the Sparks rallied back, cutting the deficit to five points on a couple of occasions late in the third quarter. Prince and fellow guard Shavonte Zellous helped the Liberty build back up their margin, going a combined 9-for-14 from the field in the third. Both scored in double figures in the third quarter, as Prince scored 12 of her 18 points in it while Zellous scored 11 of her 19 points.
Charles, New York’s leading scorer today, more than made up for her 5-for-12, 10-point performance in the Staples Center in the previous game between the teams on Aug. 4, a game Los Angeles won by 13.
“Last time we saw LA I caught two quick fouls in the first 40 seconds so the fact that I was able to be out there, I know it opens up things for my teammates even if I’m not scoring,” said Charles.