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Short-Handed Sparks Fall Short in Westchester

July 20, 2019 - Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA) - Los Angeles Sparks News Release

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. - Playing with just eight active players, the Sparks fell just short against the Liberty, losing 83-78. The Sparks were playing without Candace Parker (ankle), Alana Beard (hamstring), Maria Vadeeva (knee), Alexis Jones (knee) and Riquna Williams (league suspension). In addition to playing short-handed, the Sparks crossed three time zones on Friday prior to the noon PT start time in White Plains on Saturday. Still, the Sparks battled hard and were within one points with 30 seconds left, but ultimately couldn't overcome a 39 to 16 free throw discrepancy.

The Sparks didn't score until a Chiney Ogwumike tip-in four minutes into the game and couldn't get a rhythm going. They trailed 19-12 after the first quarter, shooting 4-for-18 from the field (22.2%). A Chelsea Gray bank 3-pointer cut it to 28-23 New York and a jumper to follow cut it to three. Nneka Ogwumike hit a runner to force a Katie Smith timeout with the Liberty up 28-27 as the Sparks were amidst a 15-4 run. The Liberty responded as Marine Johannes, the French star who recently join the Liberty, answered with a 3-pointer. She'd finish the half with 13 points shooting 5-for-5 from the field a 3-for-3 on triples. Johannes play, coupled with Nneka picking up her third foul with three minutes left in the half, helped the Liberty go up 44-37 at the break.

Chelsea Gray opened the second half with a rainbow 3-pointer to cut it to 44-40, but the Liberty answered with four quick points. The Liberty maintained a lead throughout the period but the Sparks stayed in striking distance. A Tierra Ruffin-Pratt 3-pointer cut it to 53- 51, but Johannes hit another 3-pointer to end the third quarter and the Liberty took a 61-54 lead into the final period. Johannes finished with 17 points for New York.

The Liberty went up by nine early in the fourth, but a Nneka 3-pointer cut it to 64-59. Chelsea Gray picked up her fifth foul with 6:23 remaining in the game on two phantom calls and had to go to the bench. The call led to a technical on Sparks head coach Derek Fisher.

The Sparks could not keep New York off the line, as the Liberty shot 19 free throws in the fourth quarter. When the team's met on June 15, the Liberty shot 26 free throws to the Sparks seven.

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