Candace Parker helps Sparks beat Mercury 86-72 in Game 2 (Sep 15, 2017)

LONG BEACH, Calif. (AP) Los Angeles Sparks star Candace Parker needed a lot of ice to get her ankle ready for Thursday night.

And yet, it’s the Phoenix Mercury at risk of getting frozen out.

Parker had 24 points and 13 rebounds – showing no effects of an injury – to help Los Angeles beat Phoenix 86-72 in Game 2 of a WNBA semifinal series.

The defending champion Sparks have won nine straight games and can sweep the best-of-five series Sunday in Arizona after taking a commanding 2-0 lead.

Parker, who played a game-high 36:59 minutes, sustained the injury in warmups before the Sparks’ Game 1 victory. But she played in that game and returned to her usually dominant form in Game 2.

”I felt good,” Parker said. ”Our training staff did a good job getting me ready for this game. A lot of ice. A lot of elevation. A lot of treatment. I think when we’re able to play in flow and we’re able to rebound and get stops. Rebound, run the floor.”

Sims had 21 points and Nneka Ogwumike added 18 points and nine rebounds for Los Angeles.

Diana Taurasi led Phoenix with 19 points, and Brittney Griner had 16 points. The Mercury had 12 of their 18 turnovers in the second half. Los Angeles outscored Phoenix 50-36 in the paint and had 20 second-chance points.

And then there was the task of trying to defend Parker.

”Great player,” Griner said of Parker. ”She got going quick and heated up. Tried to make some adjustments throughout the game and tried to crowd her a little bit. It’s hard to help off when I’ve got Nneka right there who can knock down the long 2 or the 3.”

Perhaps Parker’s best contribution was helping double-team Griner.

”Candace was at her best and really competed at both ends,” Sparks coach Brian Agler said. ”We asked her to guard Brittany tonight at times and she took on the challenge and did pretty well.”

The Sparks led by 15 points but let up defensively late in the third quarter when the Mercury went on a 13-2 run to pull within four at 61-57 in the fourth quarter. The Sparks stalled the comeback when Ogwumike made a 3-pointer to end the run.

EARY FOUL TROUBLE

Los Angeles’ Alana Beard, the WNBA’s defensive player of the year, picked up two fouls in the first quarter, and played just 11:09 minutes in the first half. Ogwumike also was whistled for two fouls in the first quarter but still had a strong game.

BLOCK PARTY

Griner had three blocks and moved into fourth in the WNBA’s all-time playoff blocks list, passing Tamika Catchings. Griner has 64 blocks in 25 playoff games.

JUST LIKE LAST YEAR?

Since the Sparks won the WNBA championship last season, Parker was asked if the team is feeling that same type of confidence with the way they headed into last year’s postseason.

”I think every season is different,” Parker said. ”Last season, everyone remembers us winning the championship but we struggled toward the end of the regular season. We stumbled into the playoffs, not record-wise but we weren’t playing our best basketball. Obviously, this rest helped us (earning a bye to the semifinals) and being able to get back on the practice court and figure out what we do and do it. I think the rest will help us going forward.”

TIP-INS

Parker’s 8-year-old daughter, Lailaa, was dancing courtside and cheering on her mom. … The game was played in Long Beach because of the Darryl Hall & John Oates and Tears For Fears concert at Staples Center Thursday. … Mercury forward Angel Robinson played for the first time since Aug. 12. She was out with a knee injury.

WHAT’S NEXT

Game 3 is Sunday in Phoenix.