NEWARK, N.J. (AP) - After losing in their first two tries, the New York Liberty finally got a win in their new home.
Cappie Pondexter scored 22 points to lead the Liberty to a 77-67 victory over the Los Angeles Sparks on Sunday. It was New York's first win at Prudential Center, the team's home for the next three seasons while Madison Square Garden undergoes renovations during the summers.
``It's home as we're going to get,' Pondexter said. ``They're doing renovations. We got this summer and next two summers to kind of get cozy here. We just have to make the most of it.'
Essence Carson had 18 points and Plenette Pierson added 16 for the Liberty (4-4), who have won consecutive games after a four-game skid that started with consecutive home losses to Indiana and Atlanta earlier this month.
``We need to establish that this is our home court ... and we need to get a good feel about it,' New York coach John Whisenant said. ``Our players have to get a comfort here. ... We need to establish we can win here. We need to win at home and make people afraid to come into Prudential to play the Liberty.'
Candace Parker scored 16 points and Tina Thompson had 14 to lead Los Angeles (4-3). Parker, who was limited to 10 games last year due to a shoulder injury, appeared to injure her right knee with about 6 minutes to go in the third quarter. After staying down on the court while holding her knee for a few minutes, she limped off the court and went to the locker room and did not return.
After the game, Sparks coach Jennifer Gillom said she didn't know what Parker's status was, and that the star forward was going to get an MRI exam, though she was uncertain whether it was going to be in New York or back in Los Angeles.
``We're just hoping for the best,' Gillom said. ``We've played without her before so we just have to focus on getting to the next game and playing hard, having people step up.'
After winning four of their first five games, the Sparks have lost consecutive contests to start a seven-game road swing. Los Angeles is unbeaten at home and winless away from Staples Center.
``Definitely disappointing because we know how important it is to win,' the Sparks' DeLisha Milton-Jones said. ``For us to be 0-3 right now on the road is not a good thing. We're desperately seeking a win right now.'
Los Angeles committed 27 turnovers and the Liberty took advantage, scoring 27 points off them.
``We'll get it together at some point,' Gillom said. ``Just trying to find it right now. Definitely got to eliminate our turnovers. I thought that's why we lost the game. That's 27 points we'd given them.'
The Liberty used an 18-0 run bridging halftime to take a 47-33 lead with 8:38 remaining in the third quarter.
Pondexter scored eight points in the final 39 seconds of the second quarter. After making the second of back-to-back 3s with 2.4 seconds left, she stole Thompson's ensuing inbounds pass near the free-throw line and made a layup before the buzzer to put the Liberty ahead 41-33 at the break.
``I was standing there and thinking 'I don't think she's going to throw it,' and as soon as she threw it, I was like 'I'm getting that,'' Pondexter said. ``I had to, it was right in my face. If I'm aggressive like that, it helps not only myself, but the team as well.'
Whisenant said he told his assistant coach at halftime that he hoped that flurry wouldn't make his team relax at the start of the third quarter. However, New York then scored the first six points of the third, on two baskets by Pierson and two free throws by Pondexter to take their 14-point advantage. Los Angeles missed four shots and had four turnovers during their drought.
The Liberty scored eight of the first nine points of the final period, taking a 67-50 lead, their biggest advantage of the game, on Vaughn's two free throws with 7:09 left.
The Sparks made a run, scoring six consecutive points to pull within eight on Kristi Toliver's fadeaway jumper with 1:56 left. Pondexter then sealed the game with two free throws in the final minute.
Parker hit a 3-pointer to start a 12-0 run by the Sparks in the first quarter, and she capped it with a layup for a 16-7 lead with 3:22 remaining in the period.
The Liberty missed 10 shots during their drought, and Carson ended it with a jumper with 2:18 to go. That started a 10-0 spurt that gave New York a one-point lead in the final minute of the first quarter.
The Associated Press News Service
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