NEWARK -- Fighting for its playoff life, the Liberty put together an outstanding second half and beat the Los Angeles Sparks, 73-71, Sunday afternoon at the Prudential Center.
The Liberty held the Sparks (20-10), who are considered a title contender behind MVP favorite Candace Parker, to seven points in the deciding third quarter, turning a 12-point halftime deficit into a four-point lead.
The Liberty's Essence Carson hit a three-pointer to tie it at 70 with 48 seconds left, and Cappie Pondexter (21 points, 12 rebounds, eight assists) made two free throws with 22 seconds remaining to put the Liberty ahead 72-70. Ebony Hoffman hit a free throw with 15 seconds to go for the Sparks, but Pondexter sealed the win when she grabbed the rebound of a missed three-pointer by Los Angeles' Kristi Toliver with two seconds left. Pondexter was fouled and made one free throw to complete the scoring.
"Those plays are about who wants it the most," said Pondexter, who had three defensive rebounds in the final 2:11. "Whether you're tall, short, whatever -- if you really want the ball, you're going to have that edge and that desire. I went after those loose balls. I knew how important this game was."
The Liberty (12-17) is battling Chicago (11-17) for the fourth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. With Chicago's loss to Connecticut Sunday, the Liberty moved a half-game ahead of the Sky, which faces Minnesota (24-4) Tuesday.
Plenette Pierson had 17 points and Carson added 14 for the Liberty. The game swung because of the Liberty's second-half defense. Los Angeles was playing the final game of a five-game road trip and might have worn down.
"We played with great effort and intensity despite our defensive breakdowns in the first half," Liberty coach John Whisenant said. "We are limited in some areas, but if we get into the playoffs, we can equalize opponents with our hustle."