Building a groove. The New York Liberty are fighting for a playoff spot and are hoping to end 2022 on a good note. They took on another team fighting for a playoff spot, the Los Angeles Sparks, at Barclays and made a big statement. New York was able to withstand LA's physicality and walked away with a 102-73 win last night. After this, they hit the road for a four game road trip.
The Sparks are back with us, so we can get moving to the next sections.
Where to follow the game
YES Network App and CBS Sports Network have us covered. Tip after 7:00 p.m. ET.
Betnijah Laney is getting closer, but won’t be here tonight. Rebecca Allen sat out the second half of last night’s game after she collided into Chiney Ogwumike. She’s not on the injury report so she’ll be playing tonight.
Chiney Ogwumike left the game last night with a facial injury. She’s out for this contest. Kristi Toliver and Rae Burrell are out as well.
The season series is tied at one and this is the last meeting between the teams. Safe to say, this game is incredibly important.
The WNBA schedule can be pretty ruthless, and the Sparks are finding that out once again. Early in the year, they spent a lot of time on the road as the league expected their home arena to be booked with Los Angeles Clippers and Los Angeles Lakers playoff games. When that didn't happen, the Sparks were short on luck. Now, the Sparks are playing their third game in four nights and game two of a four game road trip. When they're done here, they head south to face the Atlanta Dream and Washington Mystics over the next few days. Ouch.
Brittney Sykes has played well for the Sparks and has a good chance of making the All WNBA defensive team. She’ll look to have a better outing tonight against Sabrina Ionescu. Sab turned up last night as her 31 points, six rebounds, four assists, and three steals led the way. She only needed to play 23:49 so she should have a little more energy in the tank on the back end of a back-to-back. Ionescu was able to withstand the physical defense of the Sparks and now that LA is even more shorthanded, she can push the tempo even more to get them on their heels and in foul trouble.
Sandy Brondello mentioned some things she'd like the team to clean up tonight, and turnovers are right at the top of the list. The 19 turnovers were a shade high, and they'll need to be better tonight and down the stretch. They made up for it by owning the boards and their size will need to come through once again tonight. They won it by 13 and if they do it again, they’ll have a chance to get out on the run and make good things happen.
What will help the Liberty tonight is the advantage they have from deep. The Sparks are last in threes attempted per game and second to last in percentage. Outside of Katie Lou Samuelson and Lexie Brown, LA doesn't have many plus shooters on that side. If New York can get hot early, they have the chance to jump out to a big lead and create even more distance from Los Angeles.
Player to watch: Nneka Ogwumike
WNBA players fully understand the value of having a platform, and make the most out of it every time. Their bravery, care, and passion is essential to what they do and in a majority Black league, that is essential. Nneka Ogwumike is also President of the Players’ Association, and recently spoke to Dorothy J. Gentry of Dame Magazine about the importance of speaking out:
"We represent one of the most marginalized portions of our country, and so we have to be loud, we have to let people hear us, and we have to do it together. We would be doing a disservice if we weren’t using [our platforms] to really make things better.”
On the court, Nneka is as amazing as ever. She only shot 5-14 from the field as New York threw a bevy of defenders at her. Without Chiney, she doesn’t have as much help in the frontcourt. Olivia Nelson-Ododa figures to start, but she’s a rookie and being expected to contribute heavily in a playoff type atmosphere will be a tough ask for her. A lot will be on Ogwumike’s shoulders tonight and for the rest of the season, but she’s shown that she’s able to step up and deliver when needed.
Natasha Howard will look to slow the Sparks star down. Tash collected her fifth straight double double last night as scored 24 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in only 23 minutes of work. She only committed one turnover, and that’s been an issue she’s talked about working on in recent weeks. Howard wasn’t handling the ball as much, which was something Sandy Brondello called out after the game on Sunday against the Phoenix Mercury. Howard is one of the best finishers in the league and when she’s got the ball in the paint, it’s practically an automatic bucket these days. As the team fights to advance, having Howard and her consistent excellence will go a long way.
From the Vault
Late on Tuesday evening, it was announced that Hall of Fame broadcaster, Vin Scully, passed away at the age of 94. For many generations, he was the voice of Major League Baseball and authored many of the game’s greatest, most iconic moments. We