LOS ANGELES – Suffering from a strained left knee that’s hampered her since just before the All-Star break, Sparks leader and reigning WNBA MVP Candace Parker couldn’t go Monday night at Staples Center against the Indiana Fever.
Los Angeles responded as Nneka Ogwumike led four starters in double figures pouring in a game-high 21 points to go with eight rebounds in the Sparks’ 77-73 win over Indiana.
Wearing pink uniforms for Breast Cancer Awareness Night the Sparks (12-14) recorded a second straight win and broke a five-game home losing streak. Los Angeles’ last home win was a 90-83 victory over Chicago way back on July 1st.
The decision to sit Parker for the entire game actually came from Parker herself saying she couldn’t go after testing the knee during pre-game warm-ups.
Sparks vice president, general manager and now head coach Penny Toler – who took over the coaching reigns after relieving Carol Ross of her head coaching duties on July 20th – agreed with her star keeping her in uniform and on the bench for the entire ballgame.
Since taking over, Toler has now guided L.A. to two straight wins after opening with two straight losses.
To hear from Toler, Ogwumike and guard Alana Beard on the importance of breaking that home losing skid, click on the video below for their post game video comments.
There were 16 lead changes in the ballgame. The key was a second quarter where L.A. only allowed the Fever (12-14) to score eight points holding Indiana to 4-for-14 from the floor – a 29% shooting clip – while the Sparks shot 59% in the frame hitting 7-of-12 from the field registering 20 points and grabbing a 35-31 halftime lead.
Nine-time WNBA all-star and three-time Olympic Gold medalist Tameka Catchings led Indiana with 16 points in the loss. Erlana Larkins registered a double-double in a losing effort with 10 points and 10 boards.
The Sparks got great efforts from all their starters. Guard Alana Beard registered 17 points to go along with seven rebounds and six assists. Jantel Lavender added 13 points. Kristi Tolliver had 10 and Armentie Harrington – getting the start in place of Parker – finished with nine and 10 rebounds.
The Sparks currently hold the fourth and final playoff spot in the western conference with eight games remaining in the regular season. if the season ended today they’d have a first-round match-up with Britney Griner and the west’s top team – the Phoenix Mercury – who have won all three regular season games against L.A. so far.
Barring a severely sore left knee, Parker will be back in the line-up Tuesday night when they head to the Valley of the Sun for the final regular season game with Griner and the Mercury. A win in that final match-up in Phoenix would give L.A. its second three-game win streak of the season and go a long way confidence-wise heading into a playoff series against the Mercury.
Tip-off is set for 7pm in Phoenix.