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Candace Parker has triple-double as Sky rout Sparks

LOS ANGELES — Brittney Sykes’ eyes grew wide as she fixated on the stat sheet.

“Oh, she had a triple-double,” the Sparks guard said to herself as she looked at Candace Parker’s stat line during the postgame press conference.

“Candace is going to do what Candace does,” Sykes said after she gathered her thoughts, and went on to call her former teammate a “human 2K player.”

In the Chicago Sky’s 82-59 win, the longtime WNBA All-Star finished with a triple-double of 10 points, 14 rebounds and 10 assists against her former team.

She’s the first WNBA player with three career triple-doubles and it comes on the heels of her 17-point, 10-rebound effort in their comeback win against the Las Vegas Aces on Tuesday. Sheryl Swoopes, Courtney Vandersloot and Sabrina Ionescu are the only other WNBA players with two career triple-doubles.

It was also Parker’s first time playing in L.A. since signing with Chicago ahead of the 2021 season and leading them to the WNBA title. She looked at home on Thursday night at Arena – though she said she still sees it as Staples Center – slicing through the Sparks’ defense with ease.

She – who also moved into fifth place in league history for blocked shots (588) and eighth for assists (1,495) – was met with roaring applause during player introductions and fans darted across the stands toward the tunnel for a glimpse of her after the game.

“It was hard turning left on the second turn instead of the first one to go into the locker room,” Parker said. “My teammates are asking me where I normally sit and I was like, I’ve never been on this side of the locker room. I have love for the franchise, for the city and what we were able to do in this building.”

Parker’s putback basket gave the Eastern Conference-leading Sky (12-5) an 11-4 lead in the first quarter, then the Sparks’ Katie Lou Samuelson made a 3-pointer to make it 11-7, the closest the Sparks would get the rest of the night.

Ambivalence shrouded the game as the warm and fuzzy feelings surrounding Parker’s return contrasted with defensive frustration for the Sparks (6-10).

“(Parker) had the ball the majority of tonight,” Sykes said. “I’m pretty sure that probably was a scheme because we give hella pressure to guards. So why not let a forward player bring it up?”

Sparks All-Star Nneka Ogwumike, who had a team-high 15 points on 7-for-17 shooting, came alive in the second quarter and hustled her way to back-to-back baskets that got the Sparks within 29-19 early in the period. A minute later, Parker fought for a rebound and passed to Azura Stevens to keep the Chicago offense rolling.

By halftime, the Sky had opened a 54-25 lead and had outrebounded the Sparks 29-17.

“We do have glimpses and we do have quarters,” Sykes said of her team’s defense, “but we’re just trying to get to a place where we get it all four quarters and we don’t have mishaps like we had tonight.”

Allie Quigley dished an assist to Parker for an alley-oop with 2:30 left in the third quarter, silencing the crowd that earlier welcomed her. Jordin Canada made consecutive shots with 17 seconds left in the quarter, but Parker drove in for a layup with five seconds left and Chicago was still up 24 points after three quarters.

The Sparks, who outlasted the Sky for a 98-91 season-opening win in Chicago last month, outscored the visitors 12-11 in the fourth quarter Thursday as Chicago rested Parker and coasted to a win.

Sykes had 13 points on 5-for-15 shooting, and Samuelson had eight points. Liz Cambage played 16 minutes and scored six points.

Vandersloot and Stevens each scored 15 points for Chicago. Emma Meesseman added 11 points and Rebekah Gardner scored 10.

The Sparks now shift their focus to Saturday’s game against the Seattle Storm (11-6) as they near the halfway point of the season.

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