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Candace Parker’s return is spoiled in Sparks’ lopsided loss to Mystics

Washington Mystics v Los Angeles Sparks
Washington Mystics Forward Elena Delle Donne, right, drives toward the hoop with Sparks forward Candace Parker close behind during a game at Staples Center on Tuesday.
(Katharine Lotze / Getty Images)

In a rematch of last year’s second-round playoff matchup, the Washington Mystics again routed the Sparks 81-52, spoiling Candace Parker’s return after a hamstring injury.

The Sparks and Parker struggled offensively. Parker started the game 0 for 4 before scoring her first basket of the season three minutes into the second quarter. Parker would finish the game with three points on one-of-nine shooting in 24 minutes. While the Sparks’ Chiney Ogwumike scored a putback layup 90 seconds into the game, the team didn’t score another field goal until Riquna Williams hit up a midrange jumper with 58 seconds remaining in the quarter. The Sparks finished the first quarter with a season-low 10 points on three-for-16 shooting from the floor.

“This was our first time playing as a team with Candace on the floor,” said Sparks coach Derek Fisher. “Obviously, she isn’t at her peak level, but it was also obvious a lot of our group expected things to happen because she’s back that aren’t going to magically appear. It’s not fair to assume those things and place that burden on Candace. We still have to manage the details and all the small things that go into executing offensively and getting stops on the defensive end.”

Unlike the Sparks, there were no offensive woes for the Mystics, who made four of their first six three-pointers and ended the first quarter shooting 50% from the field.

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“I just need to get reps with my teammates and get my lungs under me,” Parker said. “I would be lying to you if I didn’t tell you I was disappointed. Obviously, we wanted to win tonight. We will go back and figure out our strengths and play to those.”

Field-goal percentage and turnover differential were the biggest factors. The Sparks led the turnover column, including eight in the first 10 minutes of the game and 27 total. The Sparks shot 23.5% from the field at the half compared to 48.5% from the Mystics. The Sparks trailed 48-27 at the half.

“Fisher was very encouraging,” said Nneka Ogwumike, who finished the game with 12 points for the Sparks. “He said sometimes these things happen. [But] it doesn’t excuse the mistakes that we made.”

Los Angeles showed signs of life early in the third quarter after quick baskets from Ogwumike and Chelsea Gray to cut into the double-digit lead, but the Mystics answered each time.

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Ultimately, Washington increased the lead to a game-high 27 points after a run.

Fisher relinquished the game to the bench in the fourth quarter.

Second-year player Sydney Wiese, who was benched in favor of Parker, scored a team-high 12 points.

“You stay ready whether you start or you’re on the bench,” said Wiese. “You don’t change anything based on the score. You treat it as the same basketball game. You still compete, you want to try to win every possession. You don’t take the foot off the gas; you try to improve while you’re out there.”

Fisher noted that the team had plenty of opportunities but just didn’t capitalize.

“We got good shots at times,” he said. “There were times we played some really good defense, but tonight just wasn’t our night.”

The Sparks hit the road again Friday when they face the Seattle Storm at 7:30 p.m.

The Mystics will continue on to Las Vegas when they face the Aces on Thursday at 7 p.m.

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