The goal began as soon as last season ended.
When the second-seeded Sparks were eliminated from the 2012 Western Conference finals by the top-seeded Minnesota Lynx, Kristi Toliver thought that if the Sparks had had home-court advantage, things could have gone differently.
"I know that was fuel for me in the off-season, to get that No. 1 spot," Toliver said of finishing first in the Western Conference.
After beating Connecticut on Tuesday, 91-78, the Sparks are one game behind Minnesota for that top spot with six games remaining in the regular season.
So even though the Sparks have won eight of their last nine games, the players aren't exactly celebrating.
"We haven't met anybody's expectations yet," Parker said. "We haven't done anything yet. The regular season is about putting yourself in the best position to contend for a championship, so I don't think anything is set until after the season is over."
The Sparks have not finished first in the Western Conference since 2006, and haven't won a championship since winning back-to-back titles in 2001 and 2002. They finished first in the Western Conference both of those years.
"We just talk about being consistent and growing and making progress in the right direction, and if we do that, that will lead us to the No. 1 spot," Toliver said. "We're not too caught up in dates and the past, it's all about the present and what we're doing right now."
The Sparks pretty much breezed through Tuesday's game. They led by as many as 18 points in the second half and shot 56.9% from the field while holding the Sun to 42%. Parker led the team with 28 points, seven assists and six rebounds, Nneka Ogwumike had 20 points and 12 rebounds, and Lindsey Harding added 18 points.
The Sparks will now go on a four-game trip before closing out the regular season at Staples Center with two games.
Tuesday's win marked the Sparks' fourth consecutive win at home, but after the game, Parker barely cracked a smile as she walked off the court.
"I always think we can do better, we can be better," Parker said.
She's not always so even-keeled.
In a celebration during Sunday's come-from-behind 90-88 double-overtime win over the Tulsa Shock, Parker inadvertently headbutted Ogwumike as the two embraced after Ogwumike made a key layup late in the game. The contact opened a massive gash above Ogwumike's eye, and sent blood spilling down her face.
Parker said that if the Sparks clinch first place in the Western Conference, even though she'll be equally if not more excited, she'll use a bit more restraint.
"I'll definitely hold back my celebration," Parker said with a smile.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times