Although the Los Angeles Sparks center scored 28 in the home loss, it was going to be monumental task to stave off elimination and win on the Phoenix Mercury’s home court, which they did in Game Two of the Western Conference Semifinals Saturday, 82-73.
Parker scored 31 - the most of her 2013 season, overtaking the 30 she dropped on the Shock July 11- and grabbed 11 boards. Her seven points in the first two and a half minutes of the second quarter were vital in the time when the Sparks opened up their insurmountable lead.
“We made more of a consertive effort to be active because there was a lot of standing around in LA,” Parker said. “I liked how we came out, especially in that second quarter. I think we were more in tune. The series is about who can play the smartest, and who can make the most adjustments. I’m a huge student of the game, and there are always adjustments to be made.”
She also mentioned how hungry she was to win a championship, reflecting on a past loss with Tennessee, where she ended up winning two national titles, preluding to two Olympic gold medals. Her performance Saturday didn’t need any explanation, she was all over the Mercury’s home court.
“She was outstanding,” Sparks coach Carol Ross said. “She was hard to guard and had a really strong will to be there for her team, and I thought she was super, she demanded the ball and also went out and got it, which is a good thing. She rebounded well, too, I thought she did a great job.”
Ross had spoke in the press conference of how her team didn’t rely on the perimeter because it pounds it in the paint so well, but it seemed every shot Parker made in Game Two was as smooth as silk, gently finding the bottom of the net without agitating it.
“When you play someone like that, you need to deny her the basketball,” Mercury coach Russ Pennell said. “Candace Parker hit some tough shots tonight, she hit some fadeaways.”
It was one of the closest races for MVP in league history, between Parker, the Mercury’s Diana Taurasi, scoring champion Angel McCoughtry, Maya Moore, and Elena Delle Donne, who many thought would replicate Parker’s 2008 feat of being named MVP and Rookie of the Year.
With Tamika Catchings having finally won the title last season, perhaps Parker, still only 27, is next in line to capitalize her career. We’ll find out how hungry she is when the Sparks and Mercury face off in Game Three at 7 p.m. Monday in Los Angeles on ESPN2.