After being limited the last three seasons by a pregnancy and injuries, Candace Parker is again playing at a high level and has helped the Los Angeles Sparks get off to a strong start.
That could continue when Parker and the Sparks face the winless Tulsa Shock on Tuesday night in the opener of a three-game homestand.Parker hasn't played a full season since winning MVP honors in her first year in 2008. She missed part of 2009 following her pregnancy, then totaled 27 games over the next two years due to knee and shoulder injuries.The star forward has scored at least 21 points in three straight games and shot 55.2 percent in the last two, playing in all four of her team's games.She scored eight of her 27 points in the final five minutes of a 99-88 win at Phoenix on Saturday, adding 11 rebounds and four blocks as the Sparks (3-1) bounced back from a loss at Minnesota two nights earlier.A resurgent Parker is just one part of an improving Los Angeles roster. Guard Kristi Toliver is averaging a career-best 21.0 points after not having averaged more than 11.2 in any of her first three seasons. She had 18 points, five rebounds and four assists against the Mercury.Rookie Nneka Ogwumike is providing a steady presence inside alongside Parker, posting a career-high 22 points and seven rebounds Saturday. She's averaging 13.8 points.After playing three of its first four on the road, Los Angeles is home for its next three -- two of which are against winless Seattle and Tulsa (0-3).While the Shock have continued their losing ways in 2012, each of their three defeats have come by fewer than 10 points. Tulsa fell 89-87 to the Mercury on Tuesday and 64-61 at Washington on Saturday -- their seventh straight loss overall.The Shock nearly erased a 58-43 deficit against the Mystics with a 14-0 run in the fourth quarter, but were unable to get the lead and Ivory Latta committed a critical turnover in the final two minutes."It's very frustrating," Latta said after scoring 16 points. "It's like we're one shot away or one layup or one pass or one something away from getting that win."Tulsa was outrebounded 40-27 and shot 30.5 percent. The Shock are the worst-shooting team in the WNBA at 37.7 percent and are being outrebounded by 7.7 per game -- the highest margin in the league.Los Angeles won four of five against Tulsa last year, though the one loss came at Staples Center on Aug. 27 -- one of the Shock's three victories in 2011.