Wheeler, Sykes help Sparks hold off Liberty for 86-83 win

National Sports

NEW YORK (AP)Erica Wheeler scored 17 points and Brittney Sykes made two defensive stops in the closing seconds to help the Los Angeles Sparks beat the New York Liberty 86-83 on Sunday.

Nneka Ogwumike and Kristi Toliver scored 16 points apiece for Los Angeles (10-13). Ogwumike added five rebounds, six assists and three steals. Ogwumike, the 2016 WNBA MVP, missed 14 games due to a knee injury before returning after the Olympics break to lead the Sparks to four consecutive wins.

Betnijah Laney threw a behind-the-back pass intended for Sabrina Ionescu but Sykes jumped into the lane and took it to the other end before being fouled by Ionescu an a layup attempt. Sykes made both free throws to make it 85-81 with 16.2 seconds left. Michaela Onyenwere made two foul shots on the other end and then Kristi Toliver hit 1 of 2 from the free-throw line to give the L.A. a 86-83 lead with 5.0 seconds remaining but Sykes blocked a potential tying 30-foot heave by Ionescu at the buzzer to seal it.

Sykes finished with seven points, six rebounds, three assists and three steals.

Natasha Howard had 17 points and 11 rebounds and Sami Whitcomb also scored 17 points, including five 3-pointers, for the Liberty (11-14). Rebecca Allen scored 15 points on five 3-pointers, Ionescu added 12 points and Laney had 10 points and nine assists.

Whitcomb, who went into the game averaging a career-high 12.6 points and leading the WNBA with 64 3-pointers, stepped on the foot of defender Erica Wheeler and appeared to injure her ankle with about two minutes to play. She was helped off the court by teammates and did not return.

New York shot 16 of 35 from 3-point range but committed 22 turnovers – 10 in the fourth quarter.

The game was played without fans in attendance because of Tropical Storm Henri.

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