UNCASVILLE, Conn. (AP) - Tina Charles celebrated her first WNBA MVP award with 17 points and four blocks, powering the Connecticut Sun to a 65-60 victory over the New York Liberty in their playoff opener on Thursday night.
Asjha Jones had 10 points, nine rebounds and four assists for Connecticut (26-9), which is the top seed in the Eastern Conference. Kara Lawson added eight points, six rebounds and five assists.
Game 2 of the best-of-three Eastern Conference semifinal series is at the Prudential Center in Newark on Saturday at 7 p.m.
Cappie Pondexter had 14 points, six assists and four steals for the Liberty (15-20). Plenette Pierson added 13 points and nine rebounds.
The Sun and Liberty were tied at 45 with over a minute left in the third quarter when Connecticut pulled away with a 12-0 run. It held New York scoreless for a 6Â½-minute stretch that began late in the third quarter and extended into the fourth.
Charles made eight of 17 shots after she received her MVP award before the game. Charles, who averaged 18 points and a WNBA-best 10.5 rebounds, received 25 first-place votes and 345 points overall from a panel of 41 sports writers and broadcasters, the league said. Los Angeles forward Candace Parker was second.
SPARKS 93, SILVER STARS 86
LOS ANGELES (AP) - Kristi Toliver tied her career high with 29 points, including the go-ahead free throws with 45 seconds remaining, and the Sparks won the opening game of the WNBA Western Conference semifinals.
Toliver was presented with the league's Most Improved Player award before the game.
Candace Parker, runner-up for the league's MVP award, added 25 points and Alana Beard had 18 for the second-seeded Sparks, who improved to 17-1 at home this season. The game was played at Galen Center, Southern California's home arena, because of a scheduling conflict at Staples Center.
Becky Hammons led the third-seeded Silver Stars with 19 points, Danielle Adams had 17 and Danielle Robinson 16.
Game 2 is Saturday in San Antonio.