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Candace Parker’s season high helps Sparks beat Storm

Sparks star Candace Parker passes to a teammate during Sunday’s win over the Seattle Storm.
Sparks star Candace Parker passes to a teammate during Sunday’s win over the Seattle Storm.
(Katharine Lotze / Getty Images)

Candace Parker scored a season-high 21 points with seven rebounds as the Sparks avenged an early-season loss and extended their win streak to three with an 83-75 victory over the Seattle Storm on Sunday at Staples Center.

Parker, in her second game back from an injury, credited her teammates, including All-Star guard Chelsea Gray, who had a game-high eight assists.

“It’s easy playing with this group. We run and honestly, on any given night it’s anyone’s night,” Parker said. “So, obviously Chelsea is a fantastic passer so if you cut, she’s going to find you. And within the offense that’s just how things flow. I’m just trying to get back into things.”

The Sparks held Seattle’s vaunted backcourt of Jewell Loyd and Jordin Canada, the former UCLA point guard, to a combined three for 17 from the field for 10 points.

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“We did a good job making things difficult for them. Fighting through screens, giving the extra effort,” Parker said. “Our help side [defense] was great in terms of taking away the driving lanes and not allowing them to see the openings. We pride ourselves on it’s not one-on-one defense, it’s team defense.”

Nneka Ogwumike, who is sixth in the WNBA in scoring, shook off a slow start and finished with 13 points and 10 rebounds for her 10th double-double of the season.

“When I’m out there I don’t think about getting mine, I just play to the flow of the game,” Ogwumike said. “Candace was flowing, [Tierra Ruffin-Pratt] was flowing, Chelsea was flowing. Obviously, I had to be aggressive, but I knew eventually the ball would make its way toward me; I just had to put myself in the position to do the rest.”

Fans at the Rose Bowl see the U.S. women’s national soccer team kick off their World Cup victory tour with a 3-0 win over Ireland.

The Sparks’ defense buckled down, holding the Storm to one field goal in the final three minutes of the half to take a 50-41 halftime lead.

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“We know that they like to play fast, so being able to get those stops that we needed also [helped] us especially. It opened the court,” Ogwumike said about the first-half defense. “Just staying disciplined and knowing that we’re always in the right position on defense and trusting each other when we’re in rotation.”

The Sparks shot a season-high 57.6% from the field in the first half and finished the game shooting 52.5% compared to 42.9% from Seattle. The Sparks also had 23 assists on 32 baskets, which coach Derek Fisher attributed to last week’s preparation.

“We talked a little about how good this Seattle team is at forcing turnovers and leading the league in steals at the point of attack,” he said. “We talked a lot about having the patience and discipline to not just squeeze off the first shot you see if it’s an average shot, but your other teammate may have a better shot if you make a pass or two.”

Forward Maria Vadeeva and rookie guard Marina Mabrey combined for 24 points off the bench for the Sparks and drew praise from Fisher.

Vadeeva, he said, is “still figuring a lot out about playing in the [WNBA and] where to take advantage of her opportunities. She‘s very versatile. She’s an offensively minded player without necessarily being selfish.

“The competitiveness [Marina] showed in the fourth quarter, that’s what we loved about her since Day 1 and that’s why we drafted her.”

Notes

Chiney Ogwumike was ruled out of her second consecutive game following a tooth extraction last week. ... The Sparks will continue their homestand Thursday against the Phoenix Mercury at 7 p.m.


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