NEW YORK (AP) — Sabrina Ionescu scored 31 points on 11-of-16 shooting, Natasha Howard had 24 points and 11 rebounds and the New York Liberty beat the Los Angeles Sparks 102-73 on Tuesday night in the first of back-to-back games between the teams.
The Liberty (12-18) and Los Angeles (12-18), who play again Wednesday in New York, are tied with the Atlanta Dream for the eighth and final playoff spot with less than two weeks remaining in the regular season, a half-game behind the Phoenix Mercury (13-18) and a half-game ahead of the 11th-place Minnesota Lynx (12-19).
Marine Johannes hit a 3-pointer to give the Liberty the lead for good at 21-20, Han Xu made two free throws to make it 45-33 with about 4 minutes left in the first half and the Sparks trailed by double figures throughout the second half.
Ionescu hit 5 of 9 from 3-point range and 11 of 16 from the field and Howard was 9-of-11 shooting for New York, which shot 57.8 percent and scored at least 100 points for the third time this season. Xu finished with 13 points and tied her career high with eight rebounds. Johannes added 12 points for the Liberty.
Brittney Sykes led the Sparks with 19 points, Nneka Ogwumike scored 15 and Olivia Nelson-Ododa, a second-round pick in April’s draft, added a career-high 12 points on 6-of-7 shooting.
L.A.’s Chiney Ogwumike and the Liberty’s Rebecca Allen left the game after they collided midway through the second quarter and did not return.