The Los Angeles Sparks likely feel fortunate that the absence of star forward Candace Parker wasn't lengthy, but their recent win streak was probably a little too brief for their liking.
The Sparks will try to start another run Tuesday night by getting another standout performance from Parker against the last-place Tulsa Shock.A sore knee kept Parker out of a 93-84 win in Phoenix on Saturday, but she returned for a home matchup with San Antonio the next day. Parker had a team-best 15 points and 15 rebounds as the Sparks fell 91-71, their first loss in four games.Los Angeles (10-4) shot 38.7 percent, and Kristi Toliver finished with eight points on 3-of-14 shooting after scoring a career-high 29 in Phoenix."This game is not going to break us. We're going to use this and grow on many different levels," forward DeLisha Milton-Jones said.It was Toliver who hit a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to help down the Shock 76-75 on May 29 and she scored 22 points, including a 14-for-14 performance from the line, in a 95-79 win over Tulsa on Wednesday. Parker was even better with a season high-tying 33 points, a career-best nine blocks and eight rebounds.The Shock (1-11) followed that defeat with a more competitive effort Saturday but lost 73-70 to Indiana. Temeka Johnson hit a 3-pointer with 11.7 seconds left to get Tulsa within a point, but the Fever's Tamika Catchings made a pair of free throws and Ivory Latta's late 3-point attempt came up short.Rookie forward Glory Johnson had a season-high 22 points to lead the way, and former Oklahoma star Courtney Paris had 10 points and 11 rebounds in her home debut for Tulsa."We have a young team and as I told them in there, we have to keep fighting, keep battling because we are going to win these close games," coach Gary Kloppenburg said. "We are going to learn how to win these close games. We've got to put ourselves in a position like we did tonight to try and win those games."Kloppenburg isn't helped by the loss of Jennifer Lacy, who was averaging 11.4 points before suffering a torn right meniscus. Liz Cambage, who scored 11.5 points per game last season, is training with the Australian national team for the Olympics.That could make it difficult to snap a four-game home losing streak to the Sparks. Los Angeles has also won 10 of 11 overall matchups since the Shock relocated to Tulsa before the 2010 season.