Sparks-Liberty Preview

The Associated PressSeptember 8, 2012

Coming off one of their most lopsided victories of the season, the Los Angeles Sparks hope to have put their recent woes behind them.

The New York Liberty's last game, meanwhile, dropped them out of the Eastern Conference playoff picture for the time being.

The Sparks conclude a five-game road trip Sunday when they continue their playoff preparation and try to deal another blow to the Liberty's postseason chances.

After a season-best nine-game winning streak locked up its playoff spot, Los Angeles (20-9) followed with three straight losses to open this road swing but regrouped Friday with a 96-68 rout of league-worst Washington.

"We needed it," said Alana Beard, who scored 16 points. "This was a great game to get back on track with and sort of get back to basics and do the little things that we've been doing all season."

The Sparks hit 7 of 9 from 3-point range after going 17 of 52 (32.7 percent) during the three-game skid. Candace Parker and Kristi Toliver each scored 18 points for the Los Angeles, which outrebounded the Mystics 39-29 and shot 61.9 percent from the floor.

"They share the ball and they run everything through Candace Parker," Mystics coach Trudi Lacey said. "... They have a lot of weapons."

The Sparks, who limited Washington to 36.2 percent from the field, also proved plenty stingy against New York (11-17) last month. The Liberty shot 37.3 percent and were outscored 22-5 during the fourth quarter of an 87-62 loss at Los Angeles on Aug. 25.

"Much of it was our inability to properly attack the zone," Liberty coach John Whisenant said after that game. "That leads to frustration. And we didn't penetrate. (The Sparks are) long, lengthy and athletic and they're a good team."

New York most recently struggled to keep up with Chicago during Friday's 92-83 loss and fell into fifth place in the East, one-half game behind the Sky for the fourth and final playoff berth.

"That was a two-game swing. It was big for us and big for them," said Whisenant, whose team has lost four of six.

"Defensively, we never got it going. They attacked us and we didn't defend it very well. We just didn't play well. ... We're not offensively gifted enough to get in a scoring battle."

Cappie Pondexter scored 24 points while Kara Braxton added 13 and 11 rebounds. Pondexter is averaging 20.6 points in her last five matchups against the Sparks.

New York has taken the last two home meetings in this series.