Liberty surge, but can’t catch the Sparks

Los Angeles, Calif. – The Los Angeles Sparks held off Cappie Pondexter and a surging Liberty Thursday afternoon to remain undefeated at home this season.

Kristi Toliver lead five Sparks in double figures with 29 points, which included five three-point shots. Candace Parker added 20 points in the 97-89 win. Pondexter had 34 points, six assists and five steals for the Liberty, while rookie Kelsey Bone added 20 points.

Los Angeles shot 64.5 percent for the game, and tied a franchise record with 29 assists in a second dominating home court performance in three days.

“It was one of those games that we just hit everything,” Sparks point guard Lindsey Harding said. “I think we relied more so on our offense than our defense this game….In the end it was just a great shooting night. Kristi (Toliver) shot incredibly well on our side.”
The Sparks got off to a hot start in the first quarter, and in the second period they extended their lead to 27, helped in part by Toliver’s 12 points. Los Angeles was shooting 73.5 percent at halftime.
In the third quarter New York kept pace with their hosts, outscoring them 22-21, lead by Pondexter’s 12 points. Toliver had 10.
Pondexter, Plenette Pierson and Bone lead a fourth quarter assault that saw them out score and out shoot the Sparks to cut the lead to eight as time expired. Bone said the Liberty lost the game in the second period.
“We let the game get out of hand in the second quarter. We played three quarters of basketball and we lost the game in the second quarter, but Coach has been on us about learning from these experiences,” Bone said.
Liberty coach Bill Laimbeer concurred, and he gave credit to the Sparks.
“In the first half they played tremendous basketball. They made every shot in the gym,” Laimbeer said. “In the second quarter we went out of our element and started jacking up shots and just throwing up things. That’s not who we are. We have to be executing on offense. If we had done that in the second quarter, it might have been a real close game at the end.”
Toliver said her hot shooting day resulted from some prodding this week.
“This past week my coaches have really got on me about having the green light and shooting the ball and not thinking about it,” Toliver said. “Not trying to find other players but just to be myself and think aggressively. So that’s what I did today. I didn’t really have a conscience. I just tried to do what was asked and what comes naturally.”
Though they have a perfect record at home, the Sparks are the lone WNBA team to remain winless on the road this season. It is something Toliver said is in the back of their minds as they wrap up a three-game home stand Saturday, against the Silver Stars.
“This (upcoming game) against San Antonio is crucial,” Toliver said. “You’ve got Becky (Hammon) back and Jayne (Appel) back, so they’re as healthy as they’re going to get. It should be a good match up with them.”
“Last time we beat them by 30 and we’re not even thinking about that because we know they’re going to bring it and they’re going to be hungry. We’ve got to come out aggressive with the same mindset and the same mentality, and get it on the defensive end.”
Laimbeer was pleased with the performance of Pondexter, who matched a WNBA single-game scoring record for the season, and Bone. He said he’d been waiting for such a break out performance from the veteran.
“I got on her last game in Phoenix. I asked her, ‘when are you going to show up for a change?’ and she showed up tonight, which is great,” Laimbeer said of Pondexter. “It’s been coming along, she’s working really hard. She just had to get that confidence about herself first. We can’t do it for her.”
Laimbeer said injuries to Essence Carson and Cheryl Ford have slowed the Liberty this season.
“We’ve lost a lot of scoring and lot of rebounding, and we’ve had to run on the fly with young players,” he said. “We’re trying to get the young players up to speed as fast as possible. I play them all, every game, to get them some experience.”
The Liberty return to New York for a four-game home stand, while the Sparks hit the road next week for two games.


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Additional quotes:
Bill Laimbeer, on whether or not this Liberty team is like his former Detroit Shock squad
“This team is completely different. We’re young, big, fast, strong. In Detroit we were a little older, much smaller, taller. And the basketball IQ on this team needs to improve as compared to the other one.”