Sparks 93, Sun 82
LOS ANGELES (AP)
Candace Parker is feeling better after experiencing some fatigue coming out of the Olympic break.
Parker had 23 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Sparks to a 93-82 victory against the Connecticut Sun on Friday night.
Kristi Toliver added 18 points and Nneka Ogwumike had 17 points and eight rebounds for the Sparks, who have won eight straight home games to improve to 14-1 at home overall.
The Sparks (22-10) remained two games ahead of San Antonio for second place in the Western Conference.
Parker helped hold off a Sun rally while recording her 16th double-double of the season. She also had five assists.
''We just want to continue to get better going into the playoffs,'' Parker said. ''I know I myself haven't played so well since the break, and my teammates have done a good job of (supporting me) and continuing to believe in me and continue to give me motivation.
''I don't want to admit weakness, but I think everybody's a little tired. I've been playing basketball since October. It's been a year. You hit that wall and then you build your way back up. Hopefully, I'm on the way back up.''
Tina Charles returned to the lineup for Connecticut and had 21 points and 13 rebounds for her WNBA-leading 17th double double. Charles, the league's leading rebounder and fifth-leading scorer, missed a WNBA game for the first time in her first career on Wednesday, sitting out with a groin strain.
It was only the fourth road loss of the season for the Sun (22-9), who stayed a game and a half ahead of Indiana for first in the Eastern Conference.
Connecticut pulled to 81-80 on Kara Lawson's 3-pointer and Parker came back with a layup off a pretty pass from Toliver. Parker added a pair of free throws and scored on a reverse layup to give Los Angeles an 87-82 lead.
The Sun missed on the ensuing possession and Ogwumike banked in a shot. Alana Beard got a steal with less than a minute remaining to seal the victory.
Connecticut committed 21 turnovers. One was a traveling violation by Tan White with 2:38 to go and Connecticut trailing 83-80.
''This was a major disappointment tonight, because that's what you need to do better to win in the playoffs,'' Connecticut coach Mike Thibault said. ''We've been a low turnover team all year, but in a couple of our losses, we've had bad turnover games that have come back to haunt us, and this is one of them.''
Charles was guarded by Parker at times in the third and had only two points on 1-for-4 shooting in the quarter. Renee Montgomery finished with 15 points and White had 11.
Connecticut opened the fourth quarter on a 17-4 run. White made two 3-pointers during the surge and McCray had one.
Ogwumike pushed the Sparks to their biggest lead at 70-51 in the third with back-to-back baskets in the paint. Montgomery kept Connecticut in it with a 10-point third quarter, including three 3-pointers.
The Sun twice called timeout during Los Angeles' 18-0 run in the third but turned it over on each possession. Parker responded with a score both times, on a left-handed turnaround shot after she dribbled the length of the court, and on a one-handed shot over Charles for a 62-47 lead.
''We were containing her great in the first half,'' Charles said of Parker. ''Once they got on that run that put us down 15, she was one of the main causes of it. She was getting the ball in transition. That was a big thing for them.''