Sparks 87, Liberty 62

The Los Angeles Sparks extended their winning streak to nine Saturday night, with a decisive 87-62 win over the New York Liberty. The 9-0 run matches one they set in 2003.
Kristi Toliver lead the Sparks with 26 points, while Candace Parker added 12 points, five rebounds and four blocked shots, and Delisha Milton-Jones put up 12. It was the second straight big game for Toliver, who equaled her career high in Thusday’s contest with 29 points.
The Sparks never trailed, but they didn’t dominate until the last period of the game. The Liberty made a run in each of the first three quarters, and eight times closed the Los Angeles gap to one or two points. In the fourth, Toliver ignited for 14 of her points, including three of four three-point shots.
New York out-rebounded their opponents, but committed 19 turnovers and shot 37 percent. Cappie Pondexter lead the Liberty with 20 points.
Sparks Coach Carol Ross said she told the team at halftime that they weren’t playing hard enough, and that they needed to get more rebounds. She was pleased with their second-half effort.
“Sometimes you win games and it’s a lot of fun and things are going your way, and sometimes you’ve got to grind it out,” Ross said. “I think winning a 25-point game against a very good NY team – we’re happy with that. You’re not going to be on point all the time, but you’ve got to find ways. To me that’s more important is how you play games like these.”
Liberty Coach John Whisenant said fatigue was a factor in his team’s performance.
“We came as prepared as we could tonight. It was our fifth game in seven days and we didn’t have any time to prepare,” Whisenant said. “Being exhausted was no excuse. We had three minutes to go in the third quarter, and still within a basket and we threw it away. We didn’t attack their zone very well and had 19 turnovers.”
The Sparks’ winning streak began before the three-week Olympic break, and is a reflection of team practices during that time, Toliver said.
“Everything was competitive, so we could keep that competitive edge,” Toliver said. “Whether it was a shooting drill or a defensive drill, there was always something on the line. We never lost that competitive edge over the break.”
Los Angeles has seen less offensive production from All-Star forward Candace Parker, who sat out over half of the second quarter and all of the fourth last night. Ross said it is a mixture of Parker’s fatigue from the Olympic Games, and teams double- and triple-teaming her.
“It’s a little of both,” Ross said. “There’s fatigue involved, because she hasn’t stopped, and it’s hard to stop her. She’s a fierce competitor, and she doesn’t want her teammates to feel like she’s not there for them 100 percent.”
“Her minutes are way down, and I’m going to keep them down as long as I need to help her just recover. I appreciate her coming out and playing, and not everybody’s doing that after the Olympics. She wants to be on the court. She wants to play, and she’s been trying to take care of herself for the long haul.”
Australian guard Jenna O’Hea, who stayed in her home country for the first half of the season to prepare for the Olympics, arrived in Los Angeles early Saturday morning. She shot around with the Sparks, and sat on the bench during the game. She said she is excited to be back.
O’Hea will join the team for their two-week, five-game road trip that begins Thursday. They return to Staples Center Thursday, Sept. 13, to face the Chicago Sky.