NEW YORK (AP) — Brianna Stewart scored 25 points and Sabrina Ionescu broke the single-season three-point record and helped New York defeat the Los Angeles Sparks 96-89 on Thursday night, giving the Liberty eight straight wins.
New York (32-7) moved half a game behind Las Vegas for the No. 1 seed in the playoffs. The Liberty close out the season at home against Washington on Sunday. The Aces have a home-and-home series with Phoenix on Friday and Sunday.
The loss moved the Sparks (16-23) half a game behind Chicago for the final playoff spot. The Sky owns the tiebreaker between the teams, so Los Angeles should win in Seattle on Sunday and let Chicago lose its final two games.
Ionescu was at the top Diane Taurasi‘s three-point score in a single season and now has 124 this year. The Liberty’s Star Guard missed all eight shots in the first half, including six three-pointers, before getting going in the second half. Ionescu made a three with 9:12 remaining in the third quarter, tying Taurasi’s mark of 121 three-pointers made in 2006. Ionescu then broke the 17-year-old milestone with a three she hit in from the corner two minutes later.
Stephanie Dolson then got hot from behind the bow. New York trailed by 13 midway through the third quarter before getting going. Dolson, who finished with 17 points, hit five 3-pointers in the space of five minutes as the Liberty took their first lead since the opening period.
Her fourth and fifth three-pointers rocked the crowd and gave New York an 81–78 lead with 7:23 remaining. That led to a 17-4 run that ended the game. New York hit 17 of 34 from behind the arc in the game.
Layshia Clarendon scored 30 points to lead Los Angeles.
New York led 21–14 in the first quarter before Los Angeles scored twelve in a row, including the last nine of the opening period. The Sparks extended the lead to 14 in the second, before Stewart New York got back inside 50-43 at halftime. She had 21 points in the first twenty minutes.
Los Angeles has been decimated by injuries all season and Thursday night’s game was no different. Nneka Ogwumike (knee), Chinay Ogwumike (foot), Karlie Samuelson (abdominal muscle), Lexi Brown (non-covid disease), Nia Clouds (knees Katie Lou Samuelson (maternity leave) were all out. That left Los Angeles with eight healthy players.
The Sparks have not had more than 11 players in any game this season and lead the league with 205 games lost to injury or illness.