In her second game back, Candace Parker was in midseason form for the Los Angeles Sparks. Parker led the Sparks with 31 points in a road victory over the Chicago Sky
Candace Parker exploded offensively against the league’s leading offense to lift the Sparks over the Sky 88-77 Friday night.
Parker finished with 31 points and nine rebounds in the team’s first road win of the season. In her season debut Wednesday at Minnesota, she had 12 points in an 82-76 loss.
“Candace’s presence makes us a lot better,” Sparks head coach Brian Agler said. “We were excited about playing, and we were hungry. We want to get back in the playoff race. Candace playing at home is a big motivating factor for her, which always helps. We just came out ready.”
Parker’s return home came as no coincidence when it came to her performance, as Agler suggested.
“It’s nice to look up in the stands and see familiar faces and reminisce. Chicago has been really good to me,” Parker said. “It’s nice to be back and play in front of my hometown. Obviously we needed this win, so there were different reasons to get pumped up.”
Each of the players in the Sparks’ (4-14) starting lineup ended the night in double digits, scoring all but four of the team’s total points.
The Sparks average just 71.4 points per game this season, the second-lowest in the league. Chicago leads the league averaging 85.4.
“I think from the beginning we let Los Angeles get really comfortable in their offensive set and they maintained that throughout, except a little bit in the third quarter,” Sky head coach Pokey Chatman said. “We had some solid minutes of defense as well, but I never felt like we disrupted them to the tone of them shooting about 48 percent.
“But I give them credit, they made shots when they had to make shots, that’s what good players do.”
Both teams were neck and neck all game before Kristi Toliver scored 11 of her 20 points in the fourth quarter, sparking a 14-4 Los Angeles run in the final 4:18. She had six points in the run, and Parker added 10 points in the fourth quarter.
In the closing 2:58, the Sparks put together an 8-0 run. The Sky (11-8) fell to a double-digit deficit by the time they scored again with 53 seconds left.
It was this decisive fourth quarter that elevated the Sparks as Chicago was right behind the Sparks offensively. Los Angeles finished 48.5 percent from the field on 32-of-66, while Chicago was 41.8 percent on 28-of-67.
“It was only on rare occasions that all five of us were connected defensively, and that’s the biggest thing,” Sky guard/forward Elena Delle Donne said. “If our defense isn’t aggressive, our offense lacks, and that’s what you saw, especially in the fourth quarter.
“We need to pick up our defense by being much more aggressive and taking teams out of their comfort zone.”
Delle Donne led Chicago with 21 points. Courtney Vandersloot tied her career high with 13 assists.