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Analysis: 3 near-comebacks and 1 blowout in action-packed WNBA Sunday

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In quick results, the Fever remain winless, the Sparks recover from a big loss, the Mercury win a fifth straight matchup and the Dream upset the Storm.

WNBA: Chicago Sky at Phoenix Mercury Brian Munoz-USA TODAY NETWORK

Eight teams played Sunday, but only one got the comfortable win it was hoping for. Read on for news of nail-biters, season’s bests and more.

New York Liberty (78) vs. Indiana Fever (75)

When these teams first met on June 2, the Liberty came away with an 87-81 overtime victory. Today, they were able to fend off another late challenge and take the game 78-75, leaving the Fever winless on the season.

Indiana went on a 10-0 run in the fourth quarter to get back into a game that featured 18 lead changes and 14 ties. But this contest was single-handedly ended by Bria Hartley, who scored five straight to end the run. Former Indiana forward Marissa Coleman sunk the game-winning three-pointer for New York with 16.8 seconds to go to ice the Fever once and for all.

The Fever have been reliant on rookie Kelsey Mitchell of late, and she did not disappoint Sunday, leading all scorers with 19 points. Fellow rookie Kia Nurse, whose 34 points sunk Indiana in their last meeting, had 10 for New York.

Both teams suffered from cold shooting early in the game, with the Liberty starting 3-for-9 and the Fever starting 2-for-10. In fact, the Liberty’s three-point percentage exceeded their overall field-goal percentage on their way to setting a season-best 13 made three-pointers.

Although Indiana fell to 0-8 on the season, they did limit New York’s Tina Charles to just 13 points, 10 below her season average.

Liberty Head Coach Katie Smith had an eventful weekend before the game, flying to New York on Sunday morning after being inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame the day before.


Los Angeles Sparks (77) vs. Chicago Sky (59)

In a battle between two teams whose last games were huge double-digit losses, the Sparks recovered, and then some, beating the Sky 77-59.

The Sparks established their dominance early, shooting 69 percent in the first quarter. Candace Parker quickly overcame her disappointing 6-point effort in the previous game, putting up 10 in the first quarter and a game-high 24 points total. Nneka Ogwumike added 16 and Chelsea Gray added 15 for Los Angeles.

The Sky, on the other hand, struggled from the floor, shooting only 28.4 percent, led by Cheyenne Parker’s 17 points and 12 rebounds. This was in spite of the Sparks giving them multiple opportunities to grab extra points, turning it over 13 times to the Sky’s 7.

Although Chicago couldn’t seem to find the bottom of the net, this was initially due in part to the team crashing the offensive glass, racking up 14 total offensive boards and 10 in the first half. But Cheyenne Parker was the only player to reach double figures in scoring for the Sky.

Both teams struggled from outside the arc, going a combined 5-for-36 for the game. Allie Quigley, Kahleah Copper and Diamond DeShields went 0-for-14 for the Sky from three.

The behind-the-scenes highlight of the game was Russian first-round draft pick Maria Vadeeva arriving in Los Angeles over the weekend after finally obtaining her visa. She made an appearance on the Sparks’ bench, but did not dress to play.


Phoenix Mercury (72) vs. Las Vegas Aces (66)

Despite a late comeback from the visiting Aces, the Mercury beat a Las Vegas team that is still finding its identity by a score of 72-66, marking Phoenix’s fifth straight win.

Diana Taurasi and Brittney Griner average a combined 40 points per game and they exceeded that total last night, putting up 25 and 19 points, respectively. Griner added 15 rebounds and a season-high 7 blocks, extending her league-leading total blocks to 29.

A’ja Wilson had a middling game for the Aces, scoring fewer than 20 points (17) for the first time since May 22 and shooting only 29.4 percent. She still led the Aces in scoring, however, in front of Kayla McBride’s 16 and Kelsey Plum’s 12.

Plum, who got her second start of the season, was able to put together season highs in points, assists (6) and rebounds (5) in another season-high 29 minutes of play. Rookie Ji-Su Park got her third start and had only 4 points, but picked up 11 rebounds.

The Mercury found themselves watching a 15-point lead evaporate to only 4 points in the fourth quarter. But Griner had two key blocks to keep the Aces silent, and Taurasi made a timely three-pointer to end the threat.

Las Vegas outscored Phoenix 29-22 in the second half, but the effort wasn’t quite enough to come away with their second victory of the season.


Atlanta Dream (67) vs. Seattle Storm (64)

Yes, Atlanta came into this one with a winning record. But against a team that averaged 91 points per game going into Sunday night, they needed some big defensive stops to put this one away and pick up a third key upset of the season — and they got them. When it was all said and done, the Storm’s furious fourth-quarter comeback wasn’t enough to win at home, and the Dream took the game 67-64.

The Dream had a 56-43 lead near the beginning of the fourth quarter, but the Storm were able to chip away at it, eventually taking a 61-60 lead with less than three minutes to play. They were unable to hold the advantage, however, and Atlanta finished the game on a 7-3 run.

While the Dream’s Tiffany Hayes led all scorers with 23 points, it was her teammate Angel McCoughtry’s 15 points that put her in historic company. In fact, McCoughtry needed exactly 15 points to pass Swin Cash for 15th on the WNBA’s all-time scoring list (for a total of 5,120), and she did exactly enough to get there.

For Seattle, Natasha Howard had a team-high 15 points and 15 rebounds, Jewell Loyd added 14 points and Breanna Stewart had 12 points. The Storm shot 30 percent in the first half and finished the game at 33 percent.

With wins against the defending-champion Lynx, the once-undefeated Sun and now the generally hot-shooting Storm, the Dream are truly showing their dominance as they recover from early-season hiccups.