NEW YORK (AP) — Sabrina Ionescu scored eight of her 20 points in the final 2:18 and the Liberty rallied from a 15-point deficit in the third quarter to beat the Los Angeles Sparks 64-61 on Wednesday night.
The Liberty (13-18) earned two wins over the Sparks (12-19) in the span of 24 hours, sweeping the back-to-back set. New York had a much tougher time than its 102-73 victory a night earlier to stay in the playoff hunt.
“We shot awful in the paint, outside the paint, but at end of the day we kept the faith and buckled down on defense,” Ionescu said. “Got scores when we needed to. It’s really hard to beat a team on a back-to-back. We were able to get two wins which is big for this franchise into this playoff push.”
Coming into Wednesday night’s games, one game separated the seventh through 11th places in the standings. With the win, New York moved into a tie with Phoenix and Atlanta for seventh.
Trailing 50-35 with 5:23 left in the third quarter, New York held Los Angeles scoreless for the rest of the period to cut its deficit to five.
Los Angeles finally ended its nearly 7-minute scoreless drought and got the lead back up to 55-47 before New York scored 13 of the next 17 points to take its first lead of the game on two free throws by Ionescu with 1:14 left.
After a Los Angeles miss, Ionescu was fouled shooting a 3-pointer with 34.1 seconds left. She made two of three to give the Liberty a 62-59 advantage.
Jordin Canada was fouled driving to the basket and made both free throws to get the Sparks within one with 29.6 left.
After a timeout, Ionescu worked the clock down before driving into the lane and banking in a shot from the free throw line with 6.9 seconds left.
Los Angeles had one last chance but Lexie Brown missed a 3-pointer from the wing just before the buzzer.
Nneka Ogwumike scored 19 points to lead Los Angeles.
The Sparks jumped out to a 24-8 lead after the first quarter as Ogwumike scored seven points. She moved past Swin Cash for 20th on the league’s all-time scoring list. Ogwumike has 5,137 points now in her career.