The combination of a healthy Candace Parker and standout rookie Nneka Ogwumike has the Los Angeles Sparks off to their best start since 2003 and riding their longest win streak in nearly three years.
The Sparks will attempt to improve to 8-1 and extend their run to six games Friday night when they visit the Atlanta Dream, who are in the midst of another lackluster start.Parker had 33 points, 16 rebounds, eight assists and five blocks as Los Angeles pulled away for an 87-81 win in Connecticut on Wednesday. Ogwumike sealed the victory by scoring five of her 18 points during a game-ending 7-0 run.The No. 1 overall draft pick leads all rookies with 15.3 points and 6.4 rebounds per game and is fourth overall in the league in shooting at 63.9 percent. She made all seven of her attempts Wednesday."She's the type of player that when I miss a shot, I know she's going to get the rebound," Parker said. "I'm more comfortable taking shots, and I know that when she gets the ball, it's going to be a good play."Parker is fifth in the league with 20.5 points per game and third with an average of 10.0 rebounds after missing a combined 39 games over the past two seasons with knee and shoulder injuries.With her help, the Sparks are off to their best start since matching their own WNBA record by winning their first nine games in 2003. Their five-game win streak is their longest since a six-game run Aug 15-25, 2009.Parker has missed two of the last three meetings against Atlanta, which has won five straight in the series and is off to a 3-5 start this year. The Dream lost nine of their first 12 games in 2011 before recovering to reach the WNBA finals for the second straight season.Erika de Souza's absence hasn't helped the Dream. The Brazilian is training for the London Olympics and likely won't return until August.Angel McCoughtry has helped pick up the slack, ranking second in the league with 21.6 points per game. She scored 23 and Sancho Lyttle added 21 points in Sunday's 92-73 road loss to the Sun, who shot 61.7 percent."I thought we fought hard all the way through," coach Marynell Meadors said. "We were definitely at a disadvantage most of the game simply because they shot the ball so well."