Sabrina Ionescu matched her season high of 31 points in just three quarters of action to lead the New York Liberty to a convincing 102-73 victory over the visiting Los Angeles Sparks on Tuesday night in the first of back-to-back games between the two teams.
Natasha Howard scored 24 points on 9-of-10 shooting in three periods and collected 11 rebounds for her fifth straight double-double for the Liberty (12-18). Ionescu was 11 of 16 shooting — including 5 of 9 from 3-point range — and also contributed six rebounds, four assists and three steals.
Han Xu recorded 13 points, eight assists and seven rebounds and Marine Johannes contributed 12 points and four steals for New York, which won for the third time in the past four games.
Brittney Sykes recorded 19 points and six rebounds and Nneka Ogwumike added 15 points for Los Angeles (12-18), which has dropped four consecutive games and seven of its past nine. Olivia Nelson-Ododa had 12 points for the Sparks.
New York’s victory creates a three-way tie for the eighth and final playoff position with six games left. The Atlanta Dream also are 12-18, while the Minnesota Lynx (12-19) are just a half-game out.
The Sparks and Liberty play again Wednesday night in New York.
Chiney Ogwumike of the Sparks and Lindsay Allen of the Liberty collided midway through the second quarter and both missed the remainder of the game with facial/forehead injuries.
New York shot 57.8 percent from the field, including 11 of 26 from 3-point range.
The Sparks hit 41.3 percent of their shots and were a lowly 2 of 16 (12.5 percent) from behind the arc.
The Liberty led by 12 at halftime and scored the first five of the third quarter. Ionescu’s fifth 3-pointer of the game gave New York a 58-41 advantage 36 seconds into the period.
Ionescu converted a three-point play to make it a 20-point margin for the first time at 74-54 with 3:14 left.
Johannes made three free throws with 12.1 seconds left as the Liberty took an 82-56 lead into the final stanza.
New York continued the assault in the fourth quarter and reached 100 points for the third time this season.
Ionescu scored 20 points and Howard added 17 as the Liberty held a 53-41 lead at the break.
Howard scored 10 points in the first quarter as New York led 24-22. Ionescu scored 15 points in the second quarter.
–Field Level Media