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Recaps: Sparks move into playoff position with fourth-straight win

Brittney Sykes ensured victory for the Los Angeles Sparks over the New York Liberty in regulation by blocking a Sabrina Ionescu three at the buzzer. Erica Wheeler was also key in the fourth quarter and led LA in scoring. Plus, the Seattle Storm spoiled Elena Delle Donne’s return to the Washington Mystics.

Los Angeles Sparks v New York Liberty
Erica Wheeler
Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images

The Los Angeles Sparks stormed back from down 11 with 1:13 to go in the third and defeated the New York Liberty 86-83 on a Brittney Sykes block at the buzzer on Sunday at Barclays Center in Brooklyn to move into playoff position.

The Sparks, who have won four games in a row to improve to 10-13, went on a 14-0 run to come back and received six fourth-quarter points from Erica Wheeler, who had 17 total to go along with five assists. Nneka Ogwumike added 16 points, six helpers and three steals while Kristi Toliver (three assists) also had 16 points.

A Toliver free throw with five seconds remaining made it 86-83. Toliver then missed a free throw and Sabrina Ionescu desperately tried to make a three at the buzzer, but Sykes (seven points, six rebounds, three assists, three steals) rejected it.

Chiney Ogwumike returned from a knee injury that had kept her out since May 28, scoring six points, including four-straight during the 14-0 run that cut New York’s lead to four.

The Liberty (11-14) placed five players in double figures in defeat. Natasha Howard led the way with 17 points and 11 boards while Rebecca Allen was 5-of-6 from deep with 15 points, five assists and two blocks. Allen is 13-of-17 from beyond the arc in New York’s last three games combined.

Betnijah Laney (two steals) just missed out on a double-double, scoring 10 points and handing out nine assists. Sabrina Ionescu added 12 points and six helpers while Sami Whitcomb tied Wheeler and Howard with a game-high 17 points.

The Sparks had some huge advantages. They forced 25 turnovers while committing just 10, won the fast break battle 15-0 and won points in the paint 38-20. Those things negated the Liberty’s 16-of-35 (45.7 percent) effort from downtown.

New York remained in playoff position but fell into a seventh-place tie with LA.

The Sparks had been tied for eighth with the Dallas Wings, but don’t have the tiebreaker against them having gone 0-2 head-to-head.

Other action

Seattle Storm (18-7) over Washington Mystics (8-14), 85-78

The Storm spoiled Elena Delle Donne’s return with 20 points, 12 rebounds, two steals and five blocks coming from Breanna Stewart. Mercedes Russell (14 points, eight rebounds, two steals), Ezi Magbegor (14 points, three blocks) and Katie Lou Samuelson (10 points) also scored in double figures for Seattle.

Tina Charles (nine rebounds, three assists, two steals) led Washington with 20 points, while Myisha Hines-Allen hauled in 17 boards to go along with nine points. Natasha Cloud added 11 points and nine helpers while Delle Donne scored 16 points in her return from a back injury that had kept her out since the Mystics’ championship-clinching Game 5 win in the 2019 WNBA Finals.