By Arden Franklyn
Over the last two seasons, the Los Angeles Sparks have been the class of the WNBA, winning a title last season, and getting off to another strong start, well positioned for a top-2 seed in the WNBA Playoffs for a 2nd-straight year. Despite some close calls, New York had not been able to get past the Sparks since 2015, dropping 5 in a row in the series. On Sunday afternoon, the Liberty put together an 83-69 win over the Sparks at Madison Square Garden. Below are three takeaways from the game.
1. Charles, Zellous and Prince lead the way
Any team that has the depth and talent of the Liberty, is likely to have different combinations of players who can impact the game on any given night. But on Sunday, it was the trio of Tina Charles, Shavonte Zellous and Epiphanny Prince that put the defending champs away. The three players combined for 58 points, 20 rebounds and 8 assists. While Charles was her usual self, Zellous and Prince are really starting to heat up. Zellous secured her second consecutive double digit scoring game and Prince broke a streak of four games, where she failed to reach double figures, netting her highest single-game point total since tallying 19 at Minnesota on July 25.
2. Liberty runs came at the right time
Basketball is a game of runs, and being able to control the momentum is huge in determining wins and losses. The Liberty put together multiple runs against the Sparks that built on their leads, none bigger than a huge burst to end the 2nd quarter and effectively shift the momentum for good. After being down 33-22 midway through the second quarter, they went on a 20-0 run near the first half’s conclusion. As the Sparks cut their lead down to nine with 5:58 remaining in the game, the Liberty soon created a 10-4 run that extended their lead to 15. Where the Liberty really thrived was not letting a great team like the Sparks get right back into the game coming out of halftime, that helped New York maintain its edge.
3. Limiting Parker and Ogwumike
As mentioned during the Liberty’s last encounter against the Sparks, the idea of stopping Candace Parker and Nneka Ogwumike is unrealistic. Your best shot is to slow them down, as the duo previously averaged 41 points and 14 rebounds against the Liberty this season. But those numbers were down quite a bit, as Parker and Ogwumike combined to score 26 points on 35% shooting. The Liberty constantly had a body on both players while helping to defend them, whenever either of them drove to the basket.