Sparks hand Liberty fourth straight loss

LOS ANGELES -- Celebrating a historic night in WNBA history, Los Angeles hosted the New York Liberty on the anniversary of their matchup in the league's first game in 1997. The Sparks completed the festivities by getting a win this time.

DeLisha Milton-Jones scored 27 points and had a key late steal to help Los Angeles beat New York 96-91.

"You want to win on a night like tonight," Sparks coach Jennifer Gillom said. "This was a 15-year celebration, and we wanted to celebrate."

Candace Parker had 21 points and 13 rebounds to carry the Sparks (4-1) to their third straight win. Kristi Toliver had 16 points and Tina Thompson added 14 and a key block in the final minute.

"It's important. It's the birthday of our league," Parker said. "I think a lot of people, when (the WNBA) started out, didn't think it would make it to this point. That's a testament to how great our pioneers of the game were.

"It's a huge responsibility on us to make sure we have a 30th anniversary."

Cappie Pondexter scored 22 points for New York (2-4), which has lost four straight. Plenette Pierson scored 15 points and Kia Vaughn had 14 and 12 rebounds.

The Liberty beat the Sparks 67-57 in the league's inaugural game 14 years ago at the Great Western Forum in Inglewood, Calif. This time around, the Sparks came out on top, thanks to a strong closing stretch.

Milton-Jones made a driving layup for a 92-88 lead with 1:49 left. Nicole Powell made a 3-pointer on the other end to pull the Liberty within one.

Following a turnover, Milton-Jones intercepted a pass in traffic and fed the ball to Parker, who dribbled behind her back with Pondexter bearing down on her and laid it in with her left hand with 29 seconds left to make it 94-91.

The Liberty had two looks at tying it but Powell missed a shot from the right corner and Sidney Spencer's shot was blocked by Thompson.

"Our whole game plan was get to the last two minutes with a chance to win," Liberty coach John Whisenant said. "We were there, we just couldn't execute our sideline out of bounds there at the end of the game."

Milton-Jones iced it with two free throws on the other end as Los Angeles improved to 4-0 at home.

"We knew how excited everybody was and the hype surrounding it," Parker said. "But I think we did a good job of just getting out on the court and playing basketball."

The Sparks hit 11 of 19 3-pointers and went 13 of 14 from the free-throw line.

The night was particularly special for Thompson, the only player to have appeared in every season and the league's all-time leading scorer.

"It's a blessing to be able to have a career, in any field, for over a decade," Thompson said. "Never would I have dreamed when I was a little girl that I would be playing basketball for a living."

Game notes
Parker has recorded double-figures in 24 straight games. The Liberty had won three straight and nine of 12 against the Sparks. Tuesday night's attendance was 10,389. There were 14,284 people at the first game in 1997.