WNBA

Sparks 75, Fever 70

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LOS ANGELES (AP)

Rather than being upset that Candace Parker's return to the starting lineup came at her expense, Ebony Hoffman is embracing it.

Hoffman scored 21 points against her former team to help the Los Angeles Sparks beat the Indiana Fever 75-70 on Thursday night.

Parker, appearing in her second game since missing six weeks with a knee injury, added 18 points and Los Angeles (10-14) held Indiana (18-8) to four points over the final 4:57.

''We all knew Candace was coming back, and she was going to be back in the starting lineup,'' Hoffman said. ''It doesn't change my role any. I'm still going to be aggressive, I still gotta score points.''

Parker returned to her accustomed starting role after playing 26 minutes off the bench on Tuesday before being ejected in the closing seconds of an 84-79 loss to Atlanta.

Parker was on the floor for all but 30 seconds against Indiana. She said she didn't expect to play the full game and felt fatigued at times. Most importantly, though, she's had no setbacks with her rehabilitated right knee.

''I feel confident in my knee,'' Parker said. ''I don't think I'm hesitant in doing anything or think twice about doing something I wouldn't have done before.''

Tamika Catchings and Erin Phillips each had 16 points for the Eastern Conference-leading Fever, which snapped a three-game winning streak.

The Fever led by as many as 12 points and were up by four in the fourth. But they went scoreless for 3:42 and were outscored 13-4 to close the game.

''We stalled down the stretch,'' Phillips said. ''We missed some shots we usually make.''

After Noelle Quinn's layup put the Sparks ahead, Katie Douglas made a 3-pointer and layup for the 66-62 lead with 4:57 remaining. Quinn answered by hitting a 3-pointer and Parker drew the foul while making a layup. Her free throw gave the Sparks a 68-66 lead with 3:13 to go.

The Fever snapped a nearly 4-minute scoring drought when Douglas' two free throws with 20.6 seconds left cut it to 70-68.

Indiana fouled Parker on the inbounds and she spilt the free throws for a three-point cushion. Catchings missed a layup and, after another intentional foul, Hoffman made two free throws.

Hoffman, who had started the previous 16 games in place of Parker, spent her first seven seasons with Indiana, where she ranks second in franchise history in rebounding. The Los Angeles native came off the bench and made her imprint, scoring 15 points on three 3-pointers in the first half.

She was more than happy to have a strong showing against her friends.

''I'm not going to lie, it's great. But it's not my only motivation to have a great game against them,'' Hoffman said. ''There was no love loss. Indy wanted me to play there. But it was a matter of me coming home to play in front of my family.''

The win helped the Sparks conclude their season-high, six-game homestand with a 3-3 mark. The victory also prevented Minnesota from clinching a playoff spot in the West.

The Fever took advantage of a slow start by the Sparks to score the game's first seven points. Los Angeles missed its first five shots as Indiana's lead swelled to 16-4 on a layup by Tammy Sutton-Brown.

Hoffman got the Sparks back in it, hitting a 3-pointer to close the first quarter and opening the second with another 3. Kristi Toliver's jumper tied the score before Hoffman's third 3-pointer of the half gave the Sparks their first lead at 24-21.

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