LONG BEACH, Calif. — Candace Parker and the Sparks have been through a lot adversity this season, so an elimination game on a neutral court wasn’t going to stop them Sunday.
Parker scored 25 points to lead the Sparks to an 81-71 win against the top-seeded Minnesota Lynx in Game 2 of the Western Conference semifinals. The Sparks tied the best-of-three series 1-1. Game 3 is Tuesday in Minnesota.
Game 2 was played at Long Beach State because the Emmy Awards were being held Sunday night near Staples Center. It was the latest adjustment for the Sparks, who did not have Parker and other key players to start this season and began 2-12.
"I think that that’s what so great about our team," Parker said. "We’ve been through everything this year — injuries, people coming in and out. We’ve had to fight the whole year. This is something we didn’t really talk about."
Parker scored 15 points in the second quarter on 5-for-7 shooting. She had eight straight points during a 12-0 run as the Sparks led by 22 points and took a 53-35 lead into halftime.
Ana Dabovic added a career-high 18 points for the Sparks, who won their first playoff game since 2013.
The win came at the potential cost of forward Nneka Ogwumike, who left the game in the third quarter with a neck strain and did not return after she was struck in a tangle of players in the paint.
"She wasn’t feeling very good, obviously," Sparks coach Brian Agler said. "I don’t know what the status will be on Tuesday with her."
Maya Moore led Minnesota with 27 points. The Lynx started the third quarter on a 15-2 run, capped by Moore’s 3-pointer, to pull to 55-50. They trailed by four points early in the fourth quarter but got no closer.
Parker and Dabovic made back-to-back 3-pointers and Dabovic later banked in a 3-pointer after Minnesota closed to 71-65. Moore, who was coming off a playoff career-high 33 point game in Game 1, lamented the second quarter.
"You never want to be in a situation where you’re down by that much on the road against a team that’s fighting for a championship like we are," Moore said. "We didn’t hang our head. We didn’t give up. We tried to still make plays. But with that big of a hole, it’s hard. It hard mentally. It’s hard emotionally to not get frustrated."
The 53 points were the most in the first half this season by the Sparks. Minnesota had three field goals in the second quarter. Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve disagreed that her team might have been fatigued trying to rally.
"I thought our execution was horrendous, when it needed to be great," Reeve said. "We get all that work to (get it) to two possessions. Goodness, I think it was a six-point game when Devereaux Peters gets a layup, and we botch a layup. I don’t think that’s fatigue."