Sparks don’t win any awards in Game 1 loss to Mercury
At least Thursday began as a good day for Sparks forward Candace Parker.
The WNBA announced that she won the most-valuable-player award in the early evening. It was downhill from there, as the Sparks lost, 86-75, to the Phoenix Mercury in Game 1 of the first round of the playoffs at Staples Center later that night.
So much for a celebration.
“We let it slip away,” Parker said after scoring a team-high 28 points and grabbing eight rebounds.
In front of an announced crowd of 8,500, including boxing champion Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Lakers guard Jodie Meeks, the Sparks fell apart in the third quarter. Behind a 14-point tear from Diana Taurasi, the Mercury turned a seven-point deficit into a seven-point lead.
“Clearly I’ve got to do a better job of finding somebody or something to bother her more because we’re just not making her uncomfortable enough,” Sparks Coach Carol Ross said of Taurasi, who finished with 30 points and seven assists.
The Sparks out-rebounded the Mercury, 39-27, but committed 16 turnovers and shot 41.1%.
“We were not good offensively, for sure,” Ross said. “You have to give Phoenix credit offensively as well. Our spacing was poor, our movement to get the ball inside was not what it needed to be.”
The Sparks must win Game 2 in Phoenix on Saturday, or they will be eliminated from the best-of-three series.
“We can’t put our heads down,” Parker said. " ... We just have to look in the mirror and figure out what team we are.”
Last season, the Sparks beat the San Antonio Silver Stars in the first round but were swept by the Minnesota Lynx in the Western Conference finals. They have not advanced beyond the conference finals since 2003.
Before Thursday’s game, Derek Fisher, who helped lead the Lakers to five NBA championships, spoke to the Sparks, who have won two titles in their 17-year history, in 2001 and 2002.
“He was talking to us about how nobody remembers who won MVP, but people remember that the Bulls went three-peat twice, they remember that the Lakers won three straight championships, and that LeBron James has two rings now,” Parker said. “I think that’s the most important thing.”
Parker, who also won the MVP award during her rookie year in 2008, said those awards don’t mean much without a championship.
“It’s the one thing that’s left to cross off,” Parker said. “I feel like individual awards can be disputed. Nobody doubts whether Indiana won the championship last year. Nobody doubts whether Minnesota won the championship the year before. I think to me, in my mind, you’re not in elite company until you will your team to a victory, you win a championship.”
Mystics 71, Dream 56: Ivory Latta scored 14 points, and Kia Vaughn and Crystal Langhorne each had 12 to help the Washington Mystics beat the Atlanta Dream in the opener of their Eastern Conference semifinals series Thursday night in Atlanta.
Washington, in the playoffs for the first time in three years, snapped an eight-game postseason skid dating back to Sept. 24, 2004.
Atlanta’s Angel McCoughtry, the two-time WNBA scoring champion, finished with 20 points despite missing 12 of her first 14 attempts from the field.
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