Parker heats up to propel Sparks past Mercury, 86-72

Odyssey Sims goes up to defend Brittney Griner. Photo by Maria Noble/WomensHoopsWorld.
Odyssey Sims goes up to defend Brittney Griner. Photo by Maria Noble/WomensHoopsWorld.

Long Beach, Calif. – A dominating performance by Candace Parker paced the Los Angeles Sparks past the Phoenix Mercury, 86-72, in game two of the WNBA semifinals Thursday.

Parker had 24 points, 13 rebounds, six assists and three blocks as the Sparks took a 2-0 lead in the series with the win. Odyssey Sims added 21 points, Nneka Ogwumike 18, and Chelsea Gray, 15.

Defending champions Los Angeles led almost the entire game, but a 13-2 Phoenix run late in the third quarter trimmed their large lead. The Sparks then stepped up their defensive efforts and cruised the rest of the way. It was their ninth straight win.

Diana Taurasi led the Mercury with 21 points, while Brittney Griner added 16 and Leilani Mitchell 15.

Los Angeles coach Brian Agler said he was pleased with his team’s ability to regain focus after the Phoenix run.

“They changed defense, we got stagnant and we turned it over,” Agler said. “Defensively we weren’t as aggressive or sharp at the point of attack. When you play against very good teams like Phoenix, and multiple good teams in our league, if you relax defensively against those teams, they will score, and they’re score in multiple ways. So you just don’t have room to do that.”

“I thought Nneka after the last game probably said it best, that you have to look at the defensive end personal. We have so much pride professionally, we make it as difficult as we can for teams to score on us.”

Mercury coach Sandy Brondello acknowledged that the Sparks are tough to guard.

“The biggest thing is they have so much athleticism,” she said. “Candace has the size, Nneka has the physicality. They’re active.  They scramble out too, and the second line of defense is in position as well. Good defensive team.”

The two teams face off again Sunday in Phoenix.