New York Liberty win confidently against the Sparks

For the first of two back-to-back games against the LA Sparks, the New York Liberty took the court at the Barclays Center and put together a convincing win for the team, 102-73. The Liberty is now on a two-game winning streak as this game bumped them into eighth place in the standings. With more wins like this, the Liberty will have a shot at going to the playoffs as the eighth or possibly seventh seed.

The Sparks came out playing a physical game, but the Liberty was expecting it. They handled the physicality well and went on to win by 29 points. On the offensive front, Sabrina Ionescu scored 31 points marking her fourth 30-point game of the season, which leads the WNBA. Natasha Howard reached 100 career three-pointers made, which contributed to her 24 points this game. She tallied her fifth consecutive double-double as well. The defense was also superb, holding the Sparks to only six points from beyond the arc. This had to be one of the best games the Liberty have played offensively and defensively all season.

The starting five for each team were the following: Howard, Ionescu, Rebecca Allen, Stefanie Dolson and Crystal Dangerfield for the New York and Katie Lou Samuelson, Nneka Ogwumike, Chiney Ogwumike, Jordin Canada and Brittney Sykes for the Sparks.

Highlights

Unlike the final score, the Liberty did not start as strong as they hoped. The Liberty allowed two shots in the paint in the opening minutes. The Sparks were leading 4-0, which happened to be their biggest lead of the night. Howard and Dolson each followed up with strong drives to the basket, and Howard grabbed an offensive rebound to give herself another two points. Five turnovers in the quarter resulted in six points for the away side. Howard's three offensive rebounds resulted in points in the paint, allowing her team to keep up with the offensive of the Sparks. The quarter ended with the Liberty leading 24-22.

The second quarter proved to be a different story for New York. Their offense produced 29 points, and Ionescu had a majority with 15 points in the quarter. After a technical foul was called on Ionescu early in the half, her play shifted and she was making almost every shot she put up. Besides hitting four three-point shots, she also had aggressive drives in the paint. Howard shot 8-9 field goals finishing the half with 16 points.

The Liberty's numbers were exceptional compared to their opponent going into halftime. They shot 58 percent from inside the arch and 33 percent from beyond the arc. The Sparks shot 45 percent from inside and went scoreless from three-point land. The Liberty's defense contributed to shutting down the three-point shots from the away team.

Coming back from the half, New York stayed in their winning mentality. The team outshot the Sparks 29-15, and Ionescu hit 31 points during the half. Head coach Sandy Brondello opted to rest some of the starters for the rest of the match as the team had a comfortable lead. The reserves took the court and maintained the same mentality as their counterparts. Han Xu had nine points and five assists at the end of the quarter. The Liberty led 82-56 going into the fourth quarter.

New York kept up the same pace, scoring 20 more in the fourth quarter. Han scored four more and ended the game with 13 points, seven rebounds and eight assists. DiDi Richards saw her first minutes in quite a few games and did not disappoint. She kept up the defense and contributed two points to the team total. Marine Johannes ended with 12 points off the bench, going 3-3 from beyond the arch. The Liberty won the game 102-73.

The home team went 58 percent in the paint and 42 percent from beyond the arc.

Coach Brondello stated after the game that she sees growth in the team. "I like how we're staying together as a team or close-fisted where we're finding we have to fight because we're trying to get into the playoffs," Brondello said. On the physicality of LA, Ionescu responded that the team had to stay poised. They kept their cool and stayed consistent.

What's Up Next for the New York Liberty?

New York face off against the LA Sparks again Wednesday at 7 p.m. You can watch the Liberty on CBS Sports Network or visit their website for ticket information.

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