Candace Parker, Nneka Ogwumike lead as Sparks hold off Sun

LOS ANGELES -- Candace Parker scored 28 points, Nneka Ogwumike had 20 points and 12 rebounds, and the Los Angeles Sparks beat the Connecticut Sun 91-78 on Tuesday night.

Lindsey Harding added 18 points to help the Sparks (20-8) remain one game behind Minnesota for first place in the Western Conference. Parker also had seven assists.

The first matchup this season between reigning MVP Tina Charles and runner-up Parker didn't really materialize. Mistie Bass ended up with much of the defensive assignment on Parker, who was coming off a double-overtime game in which she played more than 46 minutes. Parker missed the Aug. 6 meeting between the teams with a wrist injury.

"She's very unique," Charles said. "There's not a lot of 6-(foot-)5 players (who) can do the things that she can do. You can tell she works hard on her craft. I'd rather play alongside of her, like I did at the Olympics."

Iziane Castro Marques scored a season-high 19 points, and Charles had 18 points and nine rebounds as Connecticut (7-20) lost its fifth straight for the first time since 2009.

Connecticut cut an 18-point third-quarter deficit to five on a 3-pointer by Castro Marques with 6:40 remaining. The Sparks called timeout, and Parker began an 11-2 run with a tough baseline shot and ended it with free throws.

Parker scored 12 points in the first quarter, on 5-for-7 shooting that included a turnaround jumper, a three-point play off a runner in the lane and layup on a feed from Kristi Toliver. Parker highlighted the first half with a no-look pass to Ogwumike for a fast-break layup that gave Los Angeles a 49-35 lead at the break.

"She's got so many weapons," Connecticut coach Anne Donovan said of Parker. "She's playing at such a high level. When I watch her on tape, I really have to double-check because she really looks like a guard out there on so many occasions. She's a very difficult match for our post players."

Connecticut pulled within nine points three times late the third quarter, and Parker responded each time with scoring drives to the basket and a trip to the free throw line.

Harding came out aggressive and totaled her most points since a 22-point game June 23. She also had four steals.

"I've been a little beat up and dealing with a lot of things," Harding said. "I feel really good and I haven't felt this good in a while. I'm starting out in the point guard. I've got to be aggressive to be successful, and hopefully the team will follow that lead."

The Sun went on a 14-4 run in the second quarter with help from a quick seven points by Castro Marques, but Harding made a step-back jumper and a long jumper to push the lead back to double digits.

Bass had a season-high 14 points on 5-of-6 shooting to help give Connecticut 37 points off the bench.

"We haven't consistently gotten this kind of bench production," Donovan said. "But when we do -- when we can get Izzie that can give us help off the bench and Mistie Bass (scoring) -- we had a little bit more depth tonight than we normally did."

Connecticut committed seven turnovers in the opening 10 minutes.