When the Sparks played host to the Seattle Storm on Tuesday night, the winners of the last nine WNBA most-valuable-player awards started the game.
Of course, Sparks rookie Candace Parker wasn’t one of them.
But in only her 13th professional game, Parker reached another milestone, performing a slam dunk for the second consecutive game.
Parker scored a game-high 22 points, the last two on a one-handed dunk with 56 seconds remaining. She also grabbed 11 rebounds and blocked three shots to boost the Sparks to a 76-62 victory at Staples Center.
Parker converted her first WNBA slam dunk Sunday night against the Indiana Fever. That dunk also occurred in the final minute of a double-digit victory. Six years earlier, teammate Lisa Leslie had converted the league’s only other dunk. All three baskets came on the same end of Staples Center.
“A lot of us have just seen history,” Sparks Coach Michael Cooper said. “You’re going to see more because Candace Parker is very, very good.”
Parker had plenty of help, though little came from Leslie, a three-time league MVP who was held to a season-low seven points on two-for-10 shooting. Leslie was mostly matched against Seattle center Lauren Jackson, a two-time league MVP who also struggled from the field.
Jackson came in averaging 19.9 points, but was held to 10 on three-for-10 shooting.
“It’s such a tough matchup in regards to defense,” Leslie said of Jackson. “We use so much energy guarding each other that, offensively, both of our shots looked a little short today.”
Picking up considerable slack for the Sparks (10-3) was forward DeLisha Milton-Jones, who scored 19 points, and guard Marie Ferdinand-Harris, who had 16.
“Sometimes a team can be laden with talent and the chemistry doesn’t work, but these ladies are making it work,” Cooper said. “They’re giving it all their effort and they’re not worried about, or concerned about, who plays, as long as it gets done.”
Ferdinand-Harris scored seven points in the first quarter, bettering her total from each of the last two games, then contributed nine more in the third, when the Sparks outscored Seattle, 22-10, to take a 57-43 lead. Milton-Jones went to the bench with two fouls midway through the opening quarter. She returned early in the second and scored back-to-back layups to give the Sparks a 24-21 lead.
Seattle moved back in front, 33-30, with 1:53 left in the half, but Parker scored off an offensive rebound, then blocked a shot by Swin Cash, leading to a baseline jumper by Sparks reserve forward Murriel Page.