LOS ANGELES — Brittney Sykes stares at the data sheet, eyes wide.
“Oh, she’s got a triple-double,” the Sparks guard said to himself as he looked at Candace Parker’s stats in his postgame news conference.
“Candice will do what Candice does,” Sykes said after sorting her thoughts, and went on to refer to her former teammates as “human 2K players.”
The longtime WNBA All-Star had a triple-double of 10 points, 14 rebounds and 10 assists against his old team in the Chicago Sky’s 82-59 win.
She was the first WNBA player to record a career triple-double, followed by her 17 points and 10 rebounds in Tuesday’s win over the Las Vegas Aces. Sheryl Swoopes, Courtney Vandersloot and Sabrina Ionescu are the only other WNBA players with career triple-doubles.
It was also Parker’s first play in Los Angeles since signing with Chicago before the 2021 season and leading them to a WNBA title. On Thursday night, she took a look at her home at the Crypto.com Arena — though she said she still sees it as the Staples Center — breaking through the Sparks defense with ease.
She — fifth in league history in blocks (588) and assists (1,495) — was greeted with applause during the player introduction, as fans rushed through the stands and into the tunnel after the game to catch a glimpse of her.
“It’s hard to make a left turn on the second turn instead of the first into the locker room,” Parker said. “My teammates asked me where I usually sit and I said, I’ve never been on this side of the locker room. I love this team, love this city, love what we’re doing in this building.”
Parker’s tip-up put East-leading Sky (12-5) up 11-4 in the first quarter before Sparks’ Katie Lou Samuelson hit a 3-pointer to make it 11-7 , which was the Sparks’ closest score the rest of the night.
Ambiguity hung over the game, with the warm and fuzzy feeling surrounding Parker’s return contrasted with the defensive frustration of the Sparks (6-10).
“(Parker) was on the ball most of the night,” Sykes said. “I’m pretty sure it could be a plan because we put a lot of pressure on the guards. So why not let the striker come up with it?”
Sparks All-Star Nneka Ogwumike scored a team-high 15 points on 7-of-17 shooting, came alive in the second quarter and made her way to back-to-back baskets to give the Sparks a 29-19 lead early in the period. A minute later, Parker grabbed the rebound and passed to Azura Stevens to keep Chicago’s offense going.
At halftime, the Sky led 54-25 and beat the Sparks 29-17.
Sykes said of her team’s defense: “We do have glimpses, we do have quarters, but we’re just trying to get to a place where we’ve got it all four quarters, and we didn’t have the kind of thing we did tonight. Misfortune happens that way.”
Ellie Quigley assisted Parker on an alley-oop with 2:30 left in the third, quieting the crowd that had welcomed her earlier. Jordan made consecutive shots with 17 seconds left in the quarter, but Parker drove for a layup with 5 seconds left, and the Bulls still led by 24 points after three-quarters of the time.
The Sparks, who beat the Sky 98-91 in Chicago last month, outscored the visitors 12-11 in the fourth quarter as Chicago rested Parker and won.
Sykes scored 13 points on 5-of-15 shooting and Samuelson scored 8. Liz Cambage played 16 minutes and scored six points.
Vandersloot and Stevens each scored 15 points for Chicago. Emma Meesseman had 11 points and Rebekah Gardner had 10.
The Sparks now turn their attention to Saturday’s game against the Seattle Storm (11-6) as they approach the halfway point of the season.
“Salute to Chicago,” Sykes said. “But we have one more chance to play them. They come back to our house. Now, we just have to put that on the back burner.”
Absent for any reason
The Sparks’ Chiney Ogwumike was excluded for personal reasons on Thursday, also marking the 50th anniversary of the passage of Title IX, the landmark equality legislation that bans gender-based sports.
While she helps provide TV coverage of the NBA draft, she’s still trying to showcase women’s basketball.
“This means a lot for women’s basketball,” said Sparks interim coach Fred Williams. “When she’s on the court, the WNBA is on the court. When she’s speaking, she’s speaking to the world and to millions of people representing our league, the Sparks. I just think it’s great to see that.”