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    Sparks overwhelmed at tipoff, but battle back to lose late to New York Liberty
    • July 30, 2023

    LOS ANGELES — Before the game Sparks head coach Curt Miller challenged his team to match or exceed the New York Liberty’s energy.

    “We have nothing to lose,” Miller said before tip-off. “They are expected to bounce back but I like our preparation. I like where we’re at mentally going into this game.”

    The Sparks, who were down by as much as 27 points in the third quarter, ratcheted up their energy and effort in the second half, pulling within ten points, 80-70 with 2:56 left in the game on an alley-oop layup by Dearica Hamby, who finished with a team-high 21 points, six rebounds and three steals.

    A three-point play by Hamby made it 80-73 with 1:47 to go. New York All-Star guard Sabrina Ionescu drained a three, establishing an 83-73 lead with 1:32 to go.

    However, the Sparks (9-16) never led at any point in the game. They also could not stop New York (19-6) from making 15 three-pointers, ultimately losing 87-79 at Arena Sunday.

    Jordin Canada scored 11 of her 17 points in the fourth quarter. Azurá Stevens had 13 points. Nneka Ogwumike added ten points, five rebounds and three assists, for her second-lowest scoring output of the season.

    The Sparks found themselves down 21-2 with 2:52 remaining in the first quarter. New York drained 5 of 7 three-pointers early. During the same span, they held the Sparks to 1 of 15 (6.7%) shooting from the field. Hamby then scored six of her team’s next nine points, as the Sparks trailed 25-11 heading into the second quarter.

    New York All-Star forward Breanna Stewart finished with 25 points and nine rebounds. Ionescu had 14 points, six rebounds and five assists. Jonquel Jones added a double-double with 13 points and 13 rebounds.

    Sparks head coach Curt Miller told me his team has nothing to lose against the New York Liberty. That’s why he’s challenging his team to look to run against the Liberty, finding early and easy offense. #WNBATwitter

    — John W. Davis (@johnwdavis) July 30, 2023

    The Sparks pulled within ten points, 28-19 with 7:13 left in the second after a nice crossover and pullup mid-range jump shot by Jordin Canada against Ionescu.

    New York led 51-35 at halftime. Liberty guard Marine Johannès had 15 points in the first half on 5-5 shooting from 3. New York began the third quarter on a 13-4 run, powered by nine quick points by Stewart. The Sparks trailed 69-50 heading into the fourth.

    Meanwhile, Stevens was primarily focused on the Sparks’ defense against a talented New York team that came into the game second in the league in scoring at 88.7 points per game.

    “We know they’re a really high-powered offensive team and they have multiple weapons at different positions so the focus will really be defensively for us to really key in, they have a lot of key players so all of them,” Stevens shared pregame.

    Strategy aside, Miller also wanted his team to get out and run against New York.

    “We’ve got to have our tempo. We’ve got to run,” Miller explained. “We’ve got to find some early and easy offense if we can. At the same time, we have to be deliberate at times and execute and keep the possessions down with a team that’s so dynamic offensively. We’ve got to have a good first quarter.”

    However, the Sparks trailed by as many as 19 points in the first quarter, limited by New York to only four fast-break points through the first 30 minutes of the game.

    The Sparks will play New York again Tuesday night at Arena.

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    ​ Orange County Register