LOS ANGELES-Candace Parker makes everything that she does look easy. When you’re as versatile as Parker is, smooth becomes synonymous with your play.
Parker and the Los Angeles Sparks have been on an effortless tear since their only loss of the season against the Minnesota Lynx back on June 21. Parker has played lights out since then.
She was on fire against the visiting Washington Mystics (9-11) at Staples Center, adding more fuel to the flames that the WNBA superstar being left off the United States Rio Olympics women’s basketball team looks like utter nonsense.
Parker’s absence from Team USA’s roster appears to be more than just a glaring omission. It certainly is a head-scratching move. At this point of the WNBA season, though, it’s a moot point. Parker has moved on and is doing quite nicely these days.
Every game the two-time Olympian plays for the Sparks this season, it solidifies Parker for another MVP run. It’s also helping the Sparks to roll to the best record in the WNBA this season.
The Mystics received a good dose of the Parker medicine when she dropped in 26 points, pulled down 11 rebounds and dished out nine assists in the Sparks’ 92-83 victory in front of a sellout crowd on Sunday, July 10.
For good measure, Parker also produced five steals against the third-place Eastern Conference team. Those numbers weren’t too shabby for a couple of hours of work for the 6-foot-4 Parker, a 2008 and 2012 USA Olympic women’s basketball team member.
Actually, they’re kind of expected from the two-time WNBA most valuable player. What wasn’t expected was Parker’s two-point first quarter that helped stake the Mystics to a 21-20 lead.
After just connecting on one of four field goal attempts in the opening period, Parker dominated the second quarter, going for 10 of her 26 points, and grabbing seven rebounds in the process as the Sparks took a 24-21 quarter advantage over the Mystics.
The pesky Mystics were still in the game, trailing just 44-42 at the half. Intermission might have cooled Parker a bit, slowing her down to five points in the third quarter.
But as she is apt to do at anytime, Parker knows when to turn it back on again, like she did in the fourth quarter. With the Sparks finally looking to control the game, Parker scored her final nine points in the contest in the final quarter to lead the Sparks to their 18th win (18-1) of the season.
This victory wasn’t just a one-woman show, however. Jantel Lavender came off the bench to score 20 points for the Sparks. Nneka Ogwumike produced a solid outing with 22 points and seven boards to back up Parker’s dominant game.
What a difference a year makes. Last year at this time, the Sparks were in the throes of a 14-20 season, and a fourth place finish in the Western Conference. A big part of that slide was the fact that Parker did not join the Sparks until after the WNBA All-Star weekend.
The Sparks played liked a deer in headlights with Parker out of the lineup, going 3-13. It has been a vastly difference experience for the team in 2016 with Parker on the floor from Day 1, a benefit to the team that cannot be underestimated.
The Sparks have played and are the best team in the WNBA, thanks to Parker’s full-time commitment this season. Now Parker and the Sparks take the best league on the road up until September 4, which is a pretty long time to be away from home.
The time away from Staples Center is also due to the Summer Games (Aug. 5-Aug. 21) cooling off period. The break in schedule for the Sparks will start after the team’s July 22 game against the Mystics. The Sparks pick up play again Aug. 26 against the Seattle Storm.